Taking steps to therapy

Happy World Mental Health Day! What better way to promote mental health awareness than talking about how to access therapy.

I’ve previously spoken about forming support networks, whether that be friends and family you can rely on or accessing peer support groups. Sometimes, accessing talking therapies is what’s needed but there may be hesitation for fear of appearing weak, perceiving therapy is only reserved for those with serious mental health conditions, fear that treatment would be culturally inappropriate or unaffordable (if looking for private therapy).

Deciding to see a therapist is a big step for many people, but having a space where you can explore your thoughts and process emotions is a sign of courage. Life is full of various challenges and they don’t always disappear when you ignore it. Therapy can help you tackle issues head on and can give a sense of empowerment. Healing can be tough at times but you might even find some joy in the process as you learn more about yourself.

On the one hand, it might feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger about things that are distressing or even embarrassing. On the other, it can be much easier to speak to someone you do not know; someone that will not judge you and who has no expectations of you. And as much as I’m an advocate for making sure that your therapist is culturally sensitive, that may not mean that they are the same race or ethnicity to you. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” to find someone that works for you. At the end of the day, they will be helping you process some of the most sensitive aspects of your life!

If you do decide to take the step, the most common route into therapy is via your GP. Due to limited funding, this will likely entail you being put on the waiting list for a number of weeks (months in some cases). Once at the top, you will likely be offered 10-12 weeks of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Depending on what you’re going through, it’s probably a good idea to practice some self-care (i.e. mindfulness, physical exercise etc.) to help you manage your mental health whilst you are on the therapy waiting list.

If you plan on accessing therapy privately, you could either decide to have short-term therapy or it can be open-ended. You can also decide on what type of therapy you would like (i.e. psychodynamic, integrative etc.) however, as you can imagine private therapy isn’t accessible for all as sessions can cost between £40-70 each. You can start by looking for a therapist on recognised directories like Counselling Directory or BAATN

In addition, BAATN have a really good guide on what questions to ask when selecting a therapist whether you go through the NHS or private practice.

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