The increase in online therapy means that private mental health care is now more accessible than ever before. However, when making a decision about the best option for you, it is important to be aware of the main differences between public and private mental health care.
Typically, the main differences that clients experience are around:
- Waiting times for an assessment or first appointment
- The types of therapy available
- The choice of therapist
- The length of therapy in terms of the number of sessions provided
- The cost and the setting
The NHS and other free or low-cost counselling services provide a great service but often the waiting times are long, and you may have to discuss your mental health history with a number of people before you get a referral. Once obtaining a referral you may only be offered a limited number of sessions and although they have many wonderful therapists there are often limited choice if you do not find a good fit with whoever you are allocated.
Private therapy can be arranged very quickly, usually within a week or two. This is so important it you are suffering, and your life is being impacted on a daily basis. The NHS tend to use a limited variety of therapies such as short term cognitive behavioural therapy. With private therapy you can choose what type of therapy you have and who to have it with.
There are a huge range of private professionals to choose from. Research has shown that successful therapy is not so much about the type of therapy, but about the relationship between you and your therapist. This means that the first therapist you try may not be right for you. It might take a few tries to find someone you are comfortable seeing on a weekly basis. However, just a word of caution, it really is best to give it a few sessions before you decide the match is not right for you. It can take a bit of time to relax and build a rapport with your therapist, just as it might do with any new person you meet.
It can be really worthwhile doing some research into the different approaches and what sort of therapist you think would be best for you. If you find all the different types of therapy confusing, try not to be afraid to make contact with someone and ask. Or another option is to choose an integrative therapist who will work with a number of different approaches and tailor the therapy to suit you. Whoever you choose, always make sure a therapist is registered with a professional organisation such as the BACP or UKCP to ensure they are ethically mandated, required to maintain clinical supervision and undergo continued professional development.
Although at the moment most therapy is offered online, once in-person sessions are available again private therapists often offer more private, comfortable settings in a dedicated space without busy public spaces and waiting rooms. With private sessions you become a client rather than a patient. You have a bigger role to play in deciding when to have your sessions and when to start or stop your sessions. Hopefully you will feel you have more control over the course the therapy takes ensuring it meets your needs and you are able to raise your concerns if not.
There is a price tag with private therapy but really it could be seen as investment. An investment in yourself, in your health and in your own happiness and wellbeing. In some cases, therapy can actually save you money in the long term. For example, being stuck in a pattern of anxiety and depression can lead to you missing work or stop you from taking advantage of opportunities like career progression or personal development.
Whatever you decide to do, it is important to bear in mind that therapy is not an instant solution. It is a process that takes some time. There may be some ups and downs along the way and times when you do not think that anything is improving, but therapy really does work and has been changing people’s lives for decades.