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Navigating Mental Health Services Doesn't Have to be Hard. Read These 5 Tips

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Thank goodness we are so much more aware of Mental Health issues nowadays!

We need to be. There is the potential for so many more issues to arise now and over the coming months due to CV-19. As reported here.

An important thing to note is that most mental health services are still open, despite the pandemic. Many have converted the way they deliver services to enable people to access support safely online or by telephone. So, if you or anyone you know needs support please still reach out. The Guardian reported that referrals to mental health services across the board (mild, moderate, and severe) have reduced by 30-40% since the CV-19 outbreak.

This is so concerning as we know that the sooner someone seeks and receives support, the quicker, and easier, it is for them to recover.

One of the things a lot of people say to me is that they're unsure what type of help they need and how to access it. I have written this blog to help explain some of the systems in the UK.

It must be noted however that things may vary region to region.

UK Mental Health Services - who to contact when and how to contact them. (Severe and Crisis support)
UK Mental Health Services - Who to contact (1)
UK Mental Health Services -how and when to contact them. (Secondary and Primary Care)
UK Mental Health Services - Who to contact (2)

As there is no regulation of therapy services in the UK. Anyone can call themselves a therapist, psychotherapist, counsellor, or coach. There are numerous issues that you may seek out support for. Therefore, there are a range of different clinicians, each with a different skill set and areas of expertise. This can make choosing who to trust when you are most vulnerable, so much more difficult. However, there is a way to make sure you get safe, great quality care, as quickly as possible and in the way you want. Just follow these 5 tips.

1. Get an Assessment

First, you will need an assessment of your needs. This is usually an ongoing process that could start with a conversation with your GP. The GP may or may not give you a diagnosis. They may suggest you refer yourself to one of the primary care services above or refer you into more specialised mental health care. You also have the option to investigate the private sector where most clinicians offer assessments, but please read on before you do this.

2. Knowing which Approach

If you have been given a diagnosis, it’s a good idea to check the recommended treatment on the NICE website. As they say ‘knowledge is power’. This will give you the knowledge of which therapy is most suitable for you. This gives you the power of choice.

3. Finding Accredited Therapists

Once you know which type of therapy/counselling is known to be most helpful, you can then search for a clinician who is trained and accredited in that approach.

For DBT -,

For Counselling or Psychotherapy -,

4. Choosing NHS or Private Care

At this point, it is worth mentioning the main differences between the NHS services and those operating privately.

Obviously, a big consideration for many people is the cost. Treatment via the NHS is free in most cases. There are some other ways to access free support. Some companies and organisations run Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP). These allow you to access a set number of sessions with a professional to work on a specific goal. To access an EAP you need to contact your line manager or HR department. There are also charities – including local Mind, Rethink Mental Illness or Turning Point branches – which offer free or low-cost therapy treatments, although the availability of these can vary significantly between locations. Mental Health Matters (MHM) offers a telephone counselling service and talking therapies in some areas. Many schools, colleges and universities have free mental health support services onsite. They may be available remotely. In the private sector therapy can range from £10 to £200 per hour depending on the therapist’s approach, qualifications, experience, and location.

Within the NHS, the length of time you will wait for an appointment will vary depending on the urgency of your need, the resources available and systems deployed on a local basis. Due to this, there are some people who are not able to access support through NHS mental health services, some that are seen quickly and others that may wait for many months.

Private services are often, yet not always, sole practitioners working to provide the very best service they can for their clients, not least because it is their own business, and their professional reputation, on the line if they do not. Private practitioners can say straight away whether they have the availability to see a client. If they aren’t able to straight away, they can give a realistic indication when they could. This is not always possible in such a large organisation as the NHS. Further, private therapists and counsellors can often be more flexible over the scheduling of appointments because they have the ultimate say over their diary.

5. Making the Final Decision

So you have spoken to your GP, you have a reasonable idea what your issues are, you have investigated which approach is most likely to help you to feel better, and you have decided whether you want to go through the NHS or a private practice. Next, it is time to choose which therapist you want to work with.

You need to know that you feel comfortable and safe with this person. You are going to be talking about some difficult stuff, you need to know that you can fully trust them. You also need to like them because you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time speaking with them. We know from research that the therapeutic alliance (or collaborative working relationship) is the most important aspect of any type of counselling or therapy. It has been found to be the most reliable measure of successful therapeutic outcomes. Therefore, if you don’t trust or like your clinician, you are less likely to get better! So, it is vitally important to get on well with them.

Remember, it’s your life and your therapy. You are in control. In the NHS you are often allocated to a clinician. If you don’t get on or don’t feel comfortable for any reason, you are entitled to ask to be reassigned to someone else. This may not always be possible, however.

Many practitioners in private practice offer a free consultation which is an opportunity to have a chat with them and ask questions about how they work. Use this to get to see if you get along.

Even if you have started working with someone, it doesn’t mean you are stuck with them. If you think at any point that you might like to change to a different practitioner, speak first to your current clinician. Sometimes issues can arise from misunderstandings or incorrect assumptions. Obviously, if the issues are not resolved and you still want to change, you are always free to do so.

As with anything you buy online, make sure you check out some reviews on your potential therapist. You wouldn’t buy a TV without checking a few reviews first, would you? So please don’t payout for a service as important as therapy without checking out how others got on first.

Fear or being anxious all the time can take away your power in enjoying life. Did you know that you can take back control by simply letting go?


I hope that this has helped to make the process a little clearer. If you still feel stuck, you know you need help, but just aren’t sure what sort, or where from, or who with, I offer some free 30-minute telephone consultations each week and I’d be happy to talk you through your options. These are bookable on my website

With hope and healing

Tina x


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