Use of Private Therapists – A sign of the times, or a result of perceived shame?

  • Posted on: 24 April 2018
  • By: Dr John Church

It is of course, ever encouraging to see mental health issues being brought to the forefront of the public’s mind by the likes of the junior royals; mental health, just like any physical health condition, can only ever truly be addressed once the stigmatism, fear and ignorance behind it has been removed. In fact, it is of note that it was over 30 years ago, in 1987, that the then Princess of Wales did exactly the same thing with HIV and became the first royal to shake hands with an HIV sufferer, doing then, for HIV, what her children and their families are seeking to do now for mental health and, just as I did then with the Princess of Wales, I now also applaud her children for their valiant efforts.

Mental health issues are also now regular characteristics portrayed in television and film characters, and in real life in addition to the royal family, more and more public figures are speaking out about their struggles with mental health, with personalities suffering with conditions ranging from depression, anxiety and substance abuse, to those who suffered some form of physical abuse, all now being prepared to tell their stories, and one would hope not just in the interest of the fees that they can charge for such.

So, with all of this amazing work in demystifying and stigma removal from mental health issues why, I wonder, are private therapists such as myself still so very busy seeing patients. Please don’t misunderstand, I am grateful to my clients for choosing me as their psychological therapist, especially when the choice of therapists is now so vast, but I occasionally wonder why? Why, when we still arguably have one of the best health service’s in the world, does the private therapist prevail?

Is it due to the sparse resources that are now available within the NHS, or the fact that the NHS cannot afford the services of the most qualified therapists so, instead, is forced to employ less qualified, or less experienced therapists?

Is it a lifestyle choice: in today’s world everything is instant, from the food we eat to the way that we bank, and so are people now more demanding in respect of their time, and they want instant therapy with instant results? Their lives being so busy that they have not got the time for illness, in whatever form it takes, and therefore the sooner it can be resolved the better?

Is it a matter of privacy as, despite the enormous steps being made in publishing mental health issues, and the work being carried out to normalise such and create a greater level of acceptance of mental health problems, is the bottom line still, “I don’t want people knowing about me”. Is there a level of fear that still exists where people believe if their GP knows, their friends and family could know, and if their employer, life assurance company or mortgage company seek medical records from their GP, then they all will also know that someone once, suffered with a mental health problem, or from this type of view, even worse, still does suffer.

I do not have the answers, I doubt anyone truly does, although I am sure that we all hold our views and suspicions about which of these options is true. In my view, it is likely to be a combination of them all, but perhaps with the most worrying being the latter – the sooner everyone understands and accepts that the mind can break just like a bone, and needs fixing in the same way, the better the world in which we live will be for everyone.