That's a good question and one that many people in the UK ask themselves when they are in need of therapy.
Why do people ask themselves this? Two words: Waiting lists.
Waiting lists for mental health services in the NHS are long, like really long. Many people find themselves waiting at least 6 weeks for help and when they finally get to the top of the pile they might not even get the help they need.
- Patients often end up in group therapy, rather than individual.
- Patients sometimes just get given leaflets and websites for self help.
- Many patients are only offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Which whilst effective at helping specific issues isn't as effective at helping more complex conditions.
- Often you have a limited number of sessions made available to you. Sometimes only 6 sessions!
- Patients are limited by their postal code. Mental health services in some areas are abundant whilst others not so much.
Mental health in the NHS has been a "political football" for years and sadly nothing much has changed. In 2017, its common public knowledge that the NHS needs to improve on its mental health offerings.
So, should I go private? If you can afford it: yes. If you can't: check if they offer concessions.
The reason most people end up waiting (and waiting) for help from the NHS is usually because they don't want to pay for treatment or are unsure of where to go.
It's true; private therapy isn't free. It can end up a costly endeavour for something you're not sure is for you. This is usually what puts people off. In my private practice I offer a free 15 minute telephone consultation which goes someway to alleviate that pressure.
Benefits of going private
- It's more confidential as you don't need a GP referral.
- It's usually far quicker to be seen - often within a week!
- Freedom to choose your therapist. Just check out Stillpoint Spaces to see a snapshot of professional counsellors and psychotherapists (I'm one of them!).
- One to one help. Group therapy is available but it's not the default.
- You set your own pace for as many sessions as you need.
- The environment is less clinical, more comfortable and less noise/no interruptions. This is certainly true in my private practice.
Your mental health is important so it's important you find the counsellor who is the right fit. Take your time. If they have a website, read what they have to say. If they have a telephone number then call them, have a conversation with them to hear how they sound. Arrange to meet up with them, if you can, notice how you feel. If you don't feel they are the right fit for you then it's ok, you have the freedom to choose another. Once you've found them, and you feel safe enough, you can begin talking about whatever it is that got you there. That's when the real work begins...