Counselling via the NHS Part 3: Afterthoughts

My last two posts have been about my experience being referred for and waiting for NHS counselling, and about my experiences at the sessions themselves. The third and final post in this mini series will be my afterthoughts.

I've rounded up ten thoughts that go some way to summing up my experience of receiving counselling through the NHS, and here they are:

  1. It's no lie that mental health services in this country are massively under-resourced. Waiting times are far longer than any of the practitioners would like them to be, and longer than is ideal for anybody struggling with their mental health. However, when you do get the help, the support on offer can be incredible. I have all sorts of thoughts on things that could surely be done to hep improve the current way of doing things, but I'll save you from seeing them all here.
  2. You've got to be persistent. Unfortunately, not all GPs are as clued up as one another when it comes to mental health, and even those that are are so overworked and have so little time to spend with each patient that the amount of attention they can give you is limited. A ten minute appointment is not long enough for them to get a clear understanding of something as complex as your mental health. For this reason, I've found it helpful to go to appointments with lists and examples of things that have happened to me, and having pre-thought about what information I need to be able to get across to them.
  3. Going to counselling can be scary and it's a big deal. It's ok to feel nervous or alone, but it's worth pushing yourself to make those appointments. Don't let anyone make you feel small for needing that help, and remember that every session you go to you're taking steps to regain control and happiness.
  4. You won't click with every counsellor you meet. I was extremely lucky with my counsellor, but my previous experiences with private counsellors were not so smooth. If you're really not clicking, let the Talking Therapies service know and they may be able to help.
  5. Attending counselling takes work, and you've got to put effort into it. You've got to work, you've got to dig through your feelings and you've got to be as honest as you can be. If you don't put in 100% effort, you won't get the results. Nobody else can do it for you.
  6. Recovery doesn't go in a straight line; you'll have good weeks and bad. Halfway through my sessions, a man tried to attack me outside my office, which led to a real slide backwards. Sometimes it will be less dramatic than that and you'll just have a lower week. That's normal and you're not failing. You're just human.
  7. Counselling can change your life. Through CBT, which is the type of therapy I had, you're rewiring your thought patterns and behaviours. This can lead to long-lasting change affecting your entire life for the better.
  8. Take it one step at a time. Applaud yourself for the tiniest wins and tell yourself you're amazing. Even turning up to an appointment is progress. Be kind to yourself and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  9. You've got everything you need inside of you and you CAN do it. It's ok to need help to access the power within you.
  10. You might need more help. Whether you have sessions for six weeks, twelve, or even longer, you're not going to emerge at the other end as a person who never struggles again. You might need more help for a different issue, or during a stressful period in your life which leads to unhealthy behaviours resurfacing. It's ok to ask for help. The issues I worked on with my counsellor had a knock-on effect to others I had, and over the twelve weeks I had sessions and the seven months that have followed, I've made huge changes. However, there's one particular issue that seems quite separate and I haven't yet improved on, so I've asked my doctor for more help. There's no shame in that, and you shouldn't be afraid to admit you're not quite there yet.

I hope this mini-series has helped some people in some way. Maybe you're nervous about asking for help, you're apprehensive about the sessions you've got coming up, or you're just interested in someone else's experiences. 

These posts have taken a lot to write, but I'm so glad I've finally got my thoughts out.


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