Looking for a therapist in London.
March 1, 2012 4:06 AM   Subscribe

UK therapy filter. Unhappy, looking for someone to talk to in London. Details within.

The last few years have not been great to me. I've been dealing with my parents' divorce, a number of significant life changes, family illness and, recently, the second of two tough breakups (see question history).

I feel like I've been coping pretty well so far, but I'm aware that there's a lot of stuff bubbling away under the surface which isn't going away. This week has been particularly awful, with a reaccurance of some intense physical stress responses which are making day-to-day life increasingly more difficult. I've seen therapy lauded over and over on the green and I feel like this would be a good time to explore it.

Important details:

-- I'm in my early 20's, female. I am registered with a GP but haven't spoken to them about this.
-- I'm in full-time work, but on a very tight budget. I can't really afford to let go more than £100 a month.
-- I live more-or-less in central London with very good transport connections, so getting to an office elsewhere won't be a problem.
-- As I said above, there's no one "issue", just a big waxy ball of stress and difficulty. I understand that therapy =/= a cure and I'd have to do significant work to help myself, but the thought of being able to talk to someone about everything and get some constructive advice is really comforting.

So, with that in mind, my questions:

-- Is this sort of help available on the NHS? I'm worried that I might be passed on to someone who would rather give me medication and send me on my way. If you have used this route, how did it go? Would I be better off looking for somewhere private? If so, where?
-- Is it a good idea to seek therapy for dealing with an undefineable morass of bad experiences rather than a particular mental illness? What sort of therapy should I ask for (CBT, counselling)?
-- Do I even need therapy, or can I help myself?
posted by fight or flight to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
I'd say that it was probably worth pursuing this through your GP, at least as a starting-point. If you don't find your GP to be approachable, you should be able to see a different GP at the same practice (say, if your GP is male and you'd rather talk to a woman). Lots of different kinds of mental health care are available on the NHS, and in my experience nobody is going to push medication on you; the GP should listen to your concerns, discuss the options with you, and make a recommendation on that basis - which you're under no obligation to follow.

Waiting times for counselling and therapy can be an issue, depending on the situation where you live.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:17 AM on March 1, 2012

You can get therapy on the NHS. Go to your GP and ask if they will refer you for counselling.

You'll have to fill in a couple of forms asking about your state of mind, the extent to which your feelings are interfering in your daily life, etc. In my experience the first course of action is talk-therapy and if that doesn't work they will start to look at medications.

Good luck and good for you for addressing your solution proactively.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:17 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

If the NHS doesn't work out, therapy organisations, particularly those offering training, can hook you up with reduced fees with private therapists. This is often with students, but they are supervised. Each organisation will probably have its own particular approach to therapy, so do take a look and make up your mind which ones to approach.
posted by tavegyl at 4:36 AM on March 1, 2012

My experience is similar to the others. I went to a GP and discussed how I felt, they suggested that they refer me for counselling. The first step was an assessment interview, where I met a potential counsellor who talked about the options that were available. My impression is that they tend to favour CBT.

Your specific questions:

I didn't feel I was being pushed onto medication, at all. (though I asked for it, because I've been on SSRIs before and they helped).

I don't think you can afford regular private therapy on £100/month. (Also, for various reasons I started off private because I thought my insurance covered it. It was quicker and they had nicer offices, but the NHS was probably just as good).

Is it a good idea? Yes. Absolutely. Should you ask for a particular type? I would suggest telling them how you feel, letting them suggest options, and then seeing if you feel comfortable with their suggestions.

Can you help yourself? Maybe. But it might be useful to see therapy as a process that helps give you the tools to help yourself. (I mean, I worked through a CBT programme, it's finished, but hopefully it gave my improved skills to deal with my issues - that's the point of it really).

And as Ziggy500 said, good luck and good for you.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:39 AM on March 1, 2012

I just want to reiterate what others here have said. Please talk to your GP. It's absolutely worth finding an individual doctor in your practice that you trust. You won't be pushed into having antidepressants if you don't want them.

You will probably be offered CBT or counselling in the first instance. Counselling can be offered by various people in your GP practice, and may be given by one of the doctors or nurses, so if you like them it may be a place to start. CBT is handled through your practice but managed centrally by the mental health services in your area. For that there's usually a waiting list; I had to wait about 3 months (and I presented as suicidal), but I live in an area where demand for mental health services is very high and waiting times really do vary borough by borough.

I had therapy I paid for myself for a few years before I got around to seeking help from my GP, for various reasons (basically I was scared and in denial and also felt undeserving of NHS treatment). The stuff I got on the NHS was definitely better and when I look back now I really wish I hadn't impoverished myself for such a long time.

Oh yes, and be prepared to fill out endless ridiculous questionnaires in which you have to circle the number of times you felt sad in the last week, and so on. They can be infuriating and baffling, particularly when you aren't particularly emotionally literate in the first place.
posted by Acheman at 5:01 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this guys. I'll be making an appointment to see my GP this afternoon.
posted by fight or flight at 5:51 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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