Getting the right treatment: The role of private and public

Under what circumstances should you consider a counsellor in private practice? The answer to this question is quite simple. However, I want to preface my comments by stating that I believe the NHS does a wonderful job at managing the health of the UK public. With its world-class care and technology, it certainly defines quality care for UK residents.

In the lights of the comments above, the question of private versus public is a challenging question for UK residents. Certainly, private practitioners are working full-time and have successful careers. What is the nature of this demand and why are so many people seeking private psychological care? The answer to this question resides in the benefits of private counselling and psychotherapy. In a 2015 report published by the United Kingdom Counselling and Psychotherapy (UKCP) association, 94% of counsellors report treating clients frustrated with the NHS. Standard complaints involve (a) long waiting times, (b) unable to receive the help desired and (c) session lengths are too short.

It is important to first and foremost draw some parallels between private and public practitioners. Both private and public practitioners will be ethically mandated by a professional organisation such as the BACP, BPS, COSCA, UKCP, etc. If there are any question of a therapist’s qualification or registration, the public has the right to confirm with the professional organisation. In both cases, practitioners maintain professional liability insurance. In addition, both private and public counsellors are required to maintain clinical supervision and undergo continued professional development.

Given the parallels of qualifications, it is important to highlight the benefits of private therapy. First, private therapy allow clients to minimise session waiting times. Whilst on the surface, this would seem small and insignificant. However, consider a person to whom may suffer from anxiety and depression. The illness prohibits the person to function as he/she would in everyday life. Public care projects have a minimum of six month waiting period for counselling or psychotherapy. The person suffering is now expected to suffer for six months without getting the treatment needed. Whilst waiting for counselling, it is likely that symptoms will not improve or may worsen. Seeking the private practitioner allows a person suffering the opportunity to receive treatment whilst symptoms are mild or moderate.

Second, consumers of private counselling have the choice of therapeutic modality and counsellor. Selection of therapeutic mode makes a significant difference. Like medications, clients respond to treatments differently. Clients should select a counsellor to whom matches his or her personality and provides a sense of comfort. Comparative research studies are increasingly finding that relational compatibility represents a significant impact on the curative aspects of therapy. In effect, the therapeutic mode contributes to the approach and emotional availability of the counsellor. Given the availability of private counsellors and psychotherapist, consumers have a comparative advantage in the market. With the option to choose the counsellors, the person in effect chooses the mode which treatment will occur.

Finally, consumers of private counselling have greater control over care. Unlike NHS counselling services, private counselling allows greater availability which translates into client-centred treatment. In private settings, the client typically controls the duration of sessions which allows client to terminate when her/she is ready. Clients also have greater control and input into treatment planning.

The difficulty when considering private practice involves the cost of counselling. Counselling should not be thought as a hassle but an investment. Mental health issues do not improve without seeking the appropriate assistance. Given the current wait times imposed by the NHS, treatment of mental illnesses becomes a greater challenge contributing to an increase of complex cases. As such, when considering costs, consumers of mental health services should also consider the emotional and psychological costs of non-treatment. Typically, for the price of a night out, a person can invest into their health and well-being. However, private therapists typically offer cost reductions for economic hardships.    

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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