summer lighthouse Heather Stillufsen

Heather Stillufsen

Many times you can get through life’s problems with a cup of tea and some friends, or a meditation class. But sometimes you may need professional help, and that’s where therapy comes in. Therapists are  of different ilks, from those who simply listen to cognitive behaviour therapy. But what’s obvious is that private therapy is usually too expensive for the average person. If you visit a therapist, you are usually advised to visit once weekly for at least six weeks. And from around £50 a session, that’s too much for the average person, who often is struggling to pay for food and energy bills.

NHS talking therapies are free on the NHS with referral from a GP. You can also refer yourself if you prefer or have an unhelpful GP who prefers to always dole out drugs (you do however need to be registered with a GP to access cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling and guided self-help to treat common issues like anxiety, depression, social anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress, irritable bowel syndrome and body dysmorphia).

NHS can also offer counselling but usually there is a long waiting list for ‘proper counselling’ where someone sits and listens, and mostly you’ll be referred to cognitive behavioural therapy which is good for phobias, but others are not so sure about how it helps anxiety and especially depression. If you’re grieving, asking how you feel on a score of 1 to 10 is not going to help – better to just get free bereavement counselling from trained volunteers at Cruse (or Blue Cross for pet bereavements).

Samaritans and SHOUT are two organisations that can offer instant help if you urgently need someone to talk to, and you don’t have to be suicidal to call either organisation. The latter is not so well-known but runs an excellent service, where over 2000 trained volunteers offer a confidential free text messaging service, for anyone who is struggling to cope.

CBT is not the cure-all for every mind matter

CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) is the ‘therapy of choice’ now for the NHS. There’s nothing wrong with CBT per se (it’s about changing unhelpful methods of behaviour) but critics say that for deep-seated emotional issues, it’s too structured and sometimes people simply need a listening ear. It’s obviously used because it’s cheaper to run an online course, than employ trained therapists for one-to-one ‘listening sessions’ long-term.

Professor Ronald Purser (who says the ‘mindfulness craze’ has been hijacked by companies and governments who wish to use it to avoid responsiblity to change society) says the problem with CBT is that often it says it is the recipient’s responsibility to mend their minds. When in fact, often it is due to  external factors. For instance, if someone is living in a damp bedsit struggling to feed a child and is feeling depressed, mindfulness is not the cure – a society that offers safe healthy homes and decent benefits for those in need, is likely to make that parent feel a lot better, than therapy.

where to find more affordable therapists

Affordable Counselling Network offers online counselling at £25 per session with concessionary rates, run by a Community Interest Company (all profits are reinvested). Each session is 50 minutes for as long as you like. You can talk by phone or online and all therapists are fully insured members of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) or The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), with enhanced DBS and a strict code of ethics.

Happiful is a 90-page ad-free magazine full of uplifting stories, to support good mental health. The two sisters who founded it also founded Counselling Directory, where you can enter your postcode to find the best phone or in-personal councillor. They both experienced mental health issues while at school and university, and know how it feels to be overwhelmed, so used their experiences to help others quickly find one of over 22,000 listed trusted therapists. The sisters run a similar site to find qualified hypnotherapists.

7 CUPS is a website set up in the USA by a psychologist, who wished to help more people. You can access ‘trained listeners’ who have to take a course and then you can pick someone you resonate with, who will lend a listening ear, which is sometimes all someone needs. Reviews are mostly good, but although it’s not the same as visiting a trained therapist, it’s completely free, so is better than nothing.

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