Friday, 5 May 2017

Private VS NHS Mental Health Therapy: The Pros And The Cons

Private VS NHS Mental Health Therapy: The Pro's And The Con's which is better help support advice waiting lists depression anxiety CBT EMDR costs

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.  


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.  


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. 

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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. 


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.

Thank you for reading, as always X

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  1. Thanks for this it really helped I am looking for therapy and my aunty suggested private! X
    Lola Mia //

  2. Great post ! I have a bit of experience myself with mental health care although me it was for anorexia back like many many years ago , even so I almost waited 6 months to be seen ( a dangerous amount of time to wait when you are barely eating with NHS) but once they start seeing me the treatment was great and I have now recover.

    1. I'm so sorry you had to wait that long! That is just not right

  3. Honestly I think the situation is terrible because if I was a therapist would i work for the NHS when I could make far more working privately - hell no. So if I'm a good therapist with a sensible brain, I'm going to be private. It's a shame, NHS are so underfunded by the government, I have no idea what other crap they're giving the money to but it's nowhere near as important. Sometimes I work 20 hours a day but I do that so I have enough money for private therapy appointments (I have work related private healthcare but didn't want it recorded I had therapy just in case they found out and thought I was unfit to work etc) The NHS counsellor I was given, dear lord the woman seemed like she needed therapy herself, my private therapist was an angel. It's just such a shame it's ended up like this so people who don't have the money often get someone useless like my nhs therapist, for example I had to go to her own home to have the treatment, her kids were watching south park in the next room and there was a pet squirrel running about. Who the hell has a pet squirrel? Was possibly the strangest experience of my life!

    1. OMG that really sounds an awful experience! I'm so sorry you went through something this bad

  4. This was a really interesting to see both sides. I went to my doctor relating to my anxiety and I must admit I was underwhelmed by the response. I was given an online CBT course with a 5 minute chat with an advisor each week and it didn't help AT ALL. Luckily I found other ways to manage and help my problems, but if I hadn't been able to I could have ended up in real trouble.

    1. I'm really sorry to hear your experience hasn't been great

  5. This is such an interesting post - and I'm sure is really helpful to a lot of people in the position where they're deciding which way to go! I found that the NHS services I received were really accommodating, but I understand the slight difference in actual attention they gave me when seeing different people at home and at university! And though they were lovely, some were definitely more useful than others, and it's a shame sometimes that people don't have the option to change if the person just isn't compatible/useful for them!

    JosieVictoriaa // Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle

    1. I know it really is annoying! Its pretty much a postcode lottery on how good your care will be!

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  8. My daughter had a school therapist who made things worse and hen Tamhs who suddenly stopped treatment when she announced she couldnt come anymore!My daughter then she doesnt want anymore therapist.This is after he school not stopping bullying towards her and her suffering because of neglect by staff.I removed her from the school and she started another.It was there she saw a school therapist who told her she was magnifiying her problems.Then a year later Tamhs came but thay was nightmare and didnt help at now 3 years on she wants private therapy.She is 16 now.Her youth worker and anothrr Tamhs worker sent via the doctor have referred her without mine or her consent.She is not any danger to herself or others.She is very aware and safe.She has mental illness but is not unstable.I have supporting her mentaly for 4 years now and she has recovered alot and had also felt better in alot of ways.But there is so much pressure coming at her that she is noe feeling very depressed and anxious.They are making her feel worse.If i say no to them and that we are going to go private can she be forced to go the nhs route?Thanks and sorry for the rant.Adrienne

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