Saturday, 5 September 2020

Let's Talk Therapy: NHS vs Private

It is no secret that I have been struggling on and off with my mental health for quite a long time. In that time I have been in an out of therapy; counseling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and various types of private therapy. It's time to talk about those types of therapies, what worked for me and what didn't, and answering that big question a lot of people seem to have: NHS therapy or Private therapy, which is better? 

So let's do a rundown of my therapy journey:

Age 16: I had like 3 sessions with a therapist my mum used, this included hypnotherapy. I'd rate this private therapy a 1/10. I hated it, didn't like the fact that she was close to my mum and I didn't want the help, as i didn't think there was a problem.  

Age 17: I was under CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for about 4 months receiving counseling for Self Harm, Anxiety and to deal with the trauma of my mum being severly ill. I'd rate this NHS service a 3/10. Not very helpful and I didn't want to be there. Again I didn't think there was anything wrong with me. 

Age 19: I received 6 months of NHS Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Emetophobia with a trainee therapist who told me i would never get better and wanted me to play with fake sick. I'd rate this NHS therapy a 1/10. I came out feeling worst than I went in. 

Age 21 (part 1): I did an Emetophobia bootcamp (private) alongside some private one to one mini sessions. I'd rate this a 6/10. The knowledge was very useful, however, putting it into practice was a lot harder and sometimes the support I was recieving was not the type of support I was looking for. But there was an improvement in my day to day life. 

Age 21 (part 2) I recieved 5 sessions of online therapy through my university for Depression. I'd rate this 5/10, she was a lovely lady, who even took the time to read my blog to better understand me and the sessions were actually alright. 

Age 22: I recieved 9 months of NHS Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, again for Emetophobia and Self Harm. This therapy was over the phone but I would rate it a solid 9/10. I went in suicidal and a shell of the person I used to be. That therapist saved my life and also helped me gain a quality of life back. 

Age 23: I am currently recieving private therapy and this one is the game changer. 

I have been in private therapy for the past 4 months, and everything about this is so so different to my experiences of NHS therapy. My NHS therapy has always been a limited amount of sessions and we have only been able to focus on one area, eg Depression, or Anxiety, or Emetophobia. Instead of dealing with any route causes it has been more about putting a plaster on a wound so that I can keep on going, rather than find out what caused the wound in the first place and deal with that. Since the age of 16 I have been on a merri-go-round of being unwell and therapy. 

In October of 2019 I became unwell again, and after being convinced to go to the doctors by my mum I was put once again on a waiting list for 6 sessions of NHS therapy to treat Depression. Here we were again. The merri-go-round. This time I decided I would look into private therapy and I found a local therapist near me who seemed to be able to work on all my issues and offered different types of therapy I was willing to try. This therapy is truely eye opening. We are not rushing against a time frame, we are going at MY pace and we are looking at treating me as a WHOLE person, not just one aspect of my mental health. Some days, when I don't want to talk, we do creative therapy instead and this has been a type of therapy which is really working for me. We are slowly facing some of the trauma from my childhood and teenage years, and I am learning so much about how my brain works. It literally shuts down sometimes because of previous traumas. No one had told me this before. 

Often the biggest concerns with private therapy is the price. So i'll be honest, I pay £40 for a 50 minute session, so thats an extra outgoing of £160 a month. Not everyone can afford this, but if you can by cutting out the weekly Costa coffees and the shopping sprees I would recommend private therapy to anyone. Of course it is about finding the right therapist for you, which is true for whatever therapy you have. Personally I think I never really had the right therapist for me until my last lot of NHS therapy. I had a truely wonderful therapist and we worked really well together. But I think it is easier to say if a therapist doesn't suit you if you are paying for the service than if you have had a 9 month wait and you risk going back onto a waiting list to get a different therapist. 

I realise that this post may feel like I am shitting on the NHS therapy services, I am not, they saved my life and I am forever grateful to that one amazing therapist I had. However, it is a free service so the types of therapy offered are limited, the number of sessions are limited and the waiting lists are long. I am still only within the early days of my private therapy but I can already feel that I am slowly opening up, allowing myself to be vulnerable and I hope sometime soon I will feel ready to face some of my trauma head on. The beauty of this is that I am not on a time frame, we have already discussed that I may well be on this particular therapy journey for years and that that is totally okay.

 So to finally answer that big question, NHS vs Private therapy, which is better? I would have to say, for me, its private that wins. 


  1. This was really interesting to read so thank you for sharing. I see a private therapist however he also works for the NHS which has been massively helpful at times as my NHS team seem to have felt more comfortable liasing with him and he's been able to get me crisis support when I've been too ill to recognise I needed it. The only NHS therapy I've had was 3 months of compassion focused therapy which didn't help. I chose to seek help privately after no therapy from the NHS but also because I was working full time and I can see him after work. The thing I find benefical is that we're not restricted to one type of therapy and like you said, it's at my pace. I'm incredibly lucky to be able to pay for this but I sacrifice things to be able to do so and the reality is that I shouldn't have to.

  2. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your own experience with me. I completely agree with you that it is so sad that sacrifices have to be made in order to be able to receive care in a reasonable time frame. I find it truly scary how long the waiting lists are to receive psychological help from the NHS. People die during those months on the waiting list. I am glad that you have found a therapist that works well for you.

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