Meet the people paying for private therapy because they feel failed by the NHSRita Dune
Meet the people paying for private therapy because they feel failed by the NHS.
(Picture: Ella Byworth)
One in four people in the UK are affected by mental illness, yet, according to KingsFund, spending on mental health services consumes only 11% of the NHS budget.
Mental health hospitals are closing down and waiting lists are getting longer.
People can wait months or even years for services catered to their needs, and often this long wait is just for an initial assessment session, with further waiting coming after that.
The mental health system is struggling, and sadly it is extremely short of resources and professionals, with the NHS workforce plan identifying over 20,000 vacant posts in NHS specialist mental health services.
Many people are now seeking private therapy.
Private therapy is rarely a first resort for most, due to the expense – with some therapists charging upwards of £100 an hour. But when you feel you’ve been failed by the NHS, private therapy can feel like the only option.
We spoke to a variety of people who are currently undergoing, and have had private therapy.
Anneli is 28, and decided to go for private therapy because she wanted to be seen as soon as possible. She says she was almost at crisis point.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I did speak to my doctor about it, but told them I was going to pay privately.
‘I found it quite easy to find a therapist, I looked through the official counselling directory and chose the therapist with the friendliest face, it was important to me that she was female too – I liked that I could choose a face I could open up to.’
Anneli paid £40 an hour for her sessions.
She continued: ‘Having the space to open up in was so wonderful.
‘I would go again in a heartbeat, if I could afford it. It’s amazing to have a safe space with an unbiased and supportive professional to offload, nothing has ever compared to it in how much it helped me.
‘I’d love to hope that the NHS will eventually get there so that people can access better help, whether or not they can afford to pay for it – but for now at least I think that you have far more flexibility to choose your therapist, the type of work you do together and the times you are seen by going private.’
Anneli feels mental healthcare should be available to those who need it – and that getting help shouldn’t depend on income.
She said: ‘I would always pay for it if I could afford to, but now that I can no longer afford it, I think it should still be available to me.
‘A big part of the reason I can’t afford it is because I had to leave my job as a result of my mental ill health, so it’s now a horrible self fulfilling cycle.’
Anya, 25, was referred to a private therapist who works with Mind Charity.
She says: ‘When I first approached my GP about mental health issues he gave me the number for Mind. After a telephone assessment they suggested counselling but the waiting list for NHS was over 8 months.
‘They could offer Skype sessions immediately or refer me to a private company straight away. I chose private over Skype.
‘This whole process probably only took about 2-3 weeks from getting the number from my GP and my first appointment.
(Picture: Ella Byworth/ Metro.co.uk)
‘Sessions cost £30 per hour, I had one a week at first and eventually moved to biweekly appointments. The time it took to go private as opposed to the NHS was a huge influence in the decision to go with private.’
Anya says private sessions were sometimes helpful, but sometimes they weren’t.
She added: ‘It did get difficult cost and travel wise, they moved offices to over a 45 min drive from home.
‘It felt hard to leave, I was at the right point mentally to stop and see how I would cope without it but I did feel like the counsellor tried to get me to stay, they offered Skype sessions so I wouldn’t have to deal with the commute, for example.
‘I started having counselling after the end of a long term relationship which was very unhealthy and very toxic.
‘I was struggling to deal with the breakup from the beginning but still felt like I was at square one after over 6 months.
‘I started questioning if I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship. Counselling helped me separate my actions from my ex-partner’s actions, what was reaction to situations, helped me understand coercive control and how he held certain things over me.
‘I’ve learned a lot about myself. Even though I first went in about my relationship I discovered a bit more of a career path, some life goals and what I want my future to look like. So even though it started out as one thing it ended up being about so much more.’
25-year-old Jack decided to go for private therapy after feeling he had no other option. He had initially gone through the NHS for some help but was on a long waiting list and felt ‘forgotten about’.
‘We are so lucky to have the NHS but in this department I feel it is struggling extremely in an area which needs as much help, support and more importantly funding as possible,’ he said.
Jack found his therapist through a quick Google search. He ended up finding the perfect person and paid £45 for a 55 minute session, which he says was ‘worth every penny’.
But he understands how difficult it could be for people struggling who aren’t able to afford this.
Jack tells us: ‘Private therapy has changed my life. I have a good relationship with my therapist and she was able to get to the roots of why I have suffered with anxiety and depression. She has been able to give me a place to talk about anything on my mind, something which beforehand I never really had the freedom to do.
‘For me private therapy is a better service than the NHS. I was seen privately within a day of the initial contact with my therapist, whereas with the NHS it took 10 months to be at the front of the waiting list for one to one therapy.
‘When I first contacted the NHS to tell them how I was feeling, I was placed into a “group therapy class” which made me feel absolutely worthless. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the group who felt the same.
‘I’ve learned a lot from private therapy, mostly about myself and through my therapist different ways of thinking, approaching, and reacting to different situations.
‘I can’t put my finger or point to a time where it all happened, but over time from seeing my therapist things just slowly clicked back to how I was before my symptoms of depression and anxiety.
‘Of course I still have bad days but to this day I don’t know where I would have been if I didn’t make that phone call nearly a year ago to get some private help.’
Kieran, 18, has just finished therapy. He tried to go through the NHS but was given a waiting time of six months.
He started looking for a private therapist which he says was a lot of hard work – especially finding one he was comfortable with.
When he finally did find one, he was paying up to £100 a session, and so he ended up having to borrow money from his parents.
He said: ‘[Therapy] was very helpful and gave me some coping methods for my anxiety, OCD and depression, but was a lot less professional than my NHS one. However my NHS one discharged me too early and I have relapsed a few times due to this
‘I learnt some more coping methods from private and would use it again, but that’s more down to downfalls with the NHS compared to the private being good.’
Dane, 35, went private after there was no availability on the NHS, despite waiting months to see someone, and telling the crisis service he was going to attempt suicide.
Like Kieran, he also paid £100 a session, and seeing a private psychiatrist was double that.
He said: ‘It was very helpful. I would confidently say without it I probably wouldn’t still be here.
‘I’m just one of the lucky ones who was able to afford private so I would say I’m grateful to be able to pay for it.’
Ellen, 25, was initially offered therapy through the NHS, and was told that if she would be open to online therapy she would be on a waiting list for a few months, but if she wanted in-person therapy she could be waiting for up to a year.
She said: ‘I wasn’t really keen on online therapy but I said yes to get help in a shorter time frame. It ended up being around five months before my first session.
‘I was given six sessions, but in my first chat (done over Skype) the therapist I had been assigned said she didn’t have any expertise in OCD, so she’d just be focusing on social anxiety.
‘My main issue was – and still is – OCD alongside depression, so this wasn’t helpful.
‘I did a few sessions then quit, and when I realised how difficult it would be to get another therapist through the NHS I decided to bite the bullet and go private.
‘I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t have to wait months for support, and to make sure I was talking to someone who was able to help with everything – not just one tiny portion of what was wrong.
‘I have to say, though, that I stopped therapy this year because it also wasn’t the right fit and the expense was really stressful.’
Ellen found a therapist for £60 a session. She was able to choose a therapist who listed their skills located somewhere that was easy to get to.
She felt that in-person therapy would work a lot better for her, as she feels it’s easier to ‘hold stuff back over Skype’.
She said: ‘When I actually made the time to go to a session and sit in that room, it made me more invested in the time with the therapist.
‘And it was absolutely helpful! So much of what I learned was vital and life-changing. It helped me realise a lot about myself and work through a lot of triggers.
‘The cost was what put me off the most. It was definitely still helpful months on, but I kept questioning whether I could justify £60 a week on something that sometimes helped, sometimes didn’t.
‘I wanted to cut down to every other week, as I thought that would mean I’d always have something to talk about, but my therapist wouldn’t agree to that so instead I cancelled.’
Ellen feels that she should be working on finding a new therapist, because she believes there are a lot of benefits, but the financial side of things makes it difficult.
She said: ‘As bad as it sounds, I question what would make me feel better: a monthly massage or a £60 a week for therapy.
‘That’s not a healthy way of looking at it AT ALL and logically, therapy is so much more than just something to make me relax, but therapy is also tough and I think part of me wants to avoid getting into all that heavy stuff again.’
Though it’s amazing that people are able to find support through private therapy, as mentioned, it’s just not possible for everyone due to costs.
When your mental health declines your life is seriously affected. Some people need to take time off work, completely unable to function, which means less money, making private therapy impossible.
The mental health system needs more funding. According to the NHS, it’s better than it was three years ago – with an investment of up to £1.4 billion in funding, and 120,000 people getting better specialist mental health treatment.
However, people continue to linger on waiting lists, offered Skype calls over personal meetings and struggling to have their voices heard.
The mental health system needs to listen to what patients are asking for. While we wait for funding, there has to be a way to offer support to people still waiting for proper treatment.
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Meet the people paying for private therapy because they feel failed by the NHS