I have experience of both private and NHS therapy. Over the months of me going to both, I have noticed some distinct differences between the two. There is definitely pro's and cons of both kinds of treatment. Unfortunately for some, they will never get a choice. If there is one thing that I hate so much in this world, it's that your postcode and income affect the quality of care you receive as regards to your mental health. If you ask me this is just despicable and should NOT be acceptable.
This post is in no way shaming one over the other. I recognise that they each have their good points and bad points. I'm not trying to say private therapy is better or something along those lines. I can only go on my personal experiences. I have my personal favourite, but I'm not saying this is the BEST treatment for everyone. We are all different. We have different needs, preferences and situations. What works for one person might not work for another.
I'm doing this post to help those who are uncertain what therapy to go for. Maybe you are on an NHS waiting list and can't wait any longer? Maybe you don't know if private therapy will cater for you? Choosing the right therapy can be a difficult choice to make. Which is why I thought I would list the pros and cons of both, based on facts and my personal experiences. These are only guidelines. It is important you adapt them to your circumstances. I hope you find this post helpful.
PROS OF THE NHS
It's free- This is the biggest advantage of the NHS. You technically pay it through your taxes but at least you don't have to pay up front. Of course, as with anything in life, if it is free, there is going to be a pretty big demand for it. NHS therapy is no expectation.
Access to both group and individual therapy sessions- When I first went to my doctor and was diagnosed with OCD, I was referred to a counsellor at my surgery, who referred me to a group OCD CBT course, lasting six weeks. As it was a group therapy it was run pretty regularly, meaning you got help fast. These courses can be really helpful for some, for me not so much.
Read about my group therapy experience here
CBT treatment is found to be extremely helpful for a wide range of mental health issues- Once you get the help you need, CBT is likely to help you. CBT is backed up by fancy scientific research that proves why and how it works. Obviously, this isn't guaranteed that it will work for you, but it's worth trying.
Tends to be at the same time/ day each week- This is a major advantage if you work full time or study and can only do certain times each week. It's also practical if you get anxious about a change of routine and new environments.
CONS OF THE NHS
On average there are long waiting lists- I waited six months for mine. Some people only have to wait a month or so while some have to wait a year or more. Waiting times purely depend on the services and demand in your area. You may be lucky but the chances are you will be waiting a long time.
The Quality of care and support is limited to what part of the country you live in- Some areas of the UK are desperately short in accredited CBT therapists. Some areas are not. Your postcode really does determine the level of support you receive.
Restricted by the number of sessions, between 5 and 20- You can have up to a max of 20 sessions. If you have complex mental health problems it is unlikely they are going to have time to cover them all properly within these sessions which are also only a max of an hour long.
May not get along with the therapist but feel obliged to carry on- I would be really interested to know how many people don't get on with their therapist and stop as well as the number of people who carry on. Luckily, this isn't a problem for me as I like my therapist. However, if you don't get along, it's unlikely that you benefit from the sessions and end up going through the cycle again.
Get help almost immediately- When I found the therapist that I liked, I emailed them and within a week I had my first session. This is perfect, if like me you are in a state of desperation and the NHS are failing you.
Develop a closer more personal relationship with your therapist- Although I like both of my therapists equally, I feel like I have a stronger connection with my private therapist. The NHS has a very ' one in one out' style of working whereas it feels a lot more personal when you go to private sessions.
You can choose a therapist who has special experiences with certain disorders- When I was looking for a private therapist I wanted to make sure they had the right experience, offered the right services and understands OCD. This can be a major advantage if you have complex mental health problems or you want someone who has more understanding of what you are experiencing.
Flexible in the type of treatment you receive- Although CBT is the Lambaguni if you like to the therapy world. It's the one that's most known and understood, there are in fact a lot of alternative treatments. Going private means you get to choose different treatments, which may be more suited to you.
CONS OF PRIVATE
It costs, which can end up being expensive- Your financial situation should not dictate the kind of treatment you are able to receive. But unfortunately, it does. Private therapy costs and it can be hard to afford if you are a student or out of work. However, some therapists will offer reduced rates for low-income households, so just check with them first.
May be hard to find someone in your local area- I was incredibly lucky when finding my local therapist. they were just around the corner from where I live. Unfortunately, you may not be as fortunate. Unlike the NHS there is no guarantee there will be a therapist in your local area.
Available slots in the week may be limited and not appropriate for you- They may only work certain hours e.g. in the day or evening, which may not work for you.
I hope this post made some things clearer for you. If you are struggling to decide what kind of therapy to go for, I would be more than happy to do a more in-depth post explaining the two types of therapy. I'm also here to help and answer any questions you may have about my personal experiences of the different types! Just drop me an email or DM on Twitter, and I'll do the best I can to help.