How can you afford to see a counsellor?
I originally wrote this article in 2011 in the aftermath of the last major economic recession. The question of how to afford the counselling you need is still relevant, if not more so, today.
The link between money and emotion
There’s no getting away from the fact that when times are bad, we often feel bad too.
Research by numerous medical journals such as The Lancet (July 2009) has shown, perhaps rather unsurprisingly, that there is a definite link between economic crises and the level of depression and loneliness, and even self-harm and feelings of suicide, experienced by people coming to terms with changes in their economic circumstances.
These changes may be real, and involve redundancy or a reduction in working hours. Or they may be perceived. With a constant barrage of news proclaiming economic doom and gloom that feeds into our fears about our economic and emotional security.
Feelings of uncertainty can be difficult to manage and financial uncertainty, perhaps fears about redundancy or a cut in working hours, can have a profound effect on our self-esteem, our anxiety levels, and also affect our relationships with others.
Counselling and finances
In more prosperous times we may consider getting some help, in the form of counselling or psychotherapy, with the difficulties we are facing – perhaps a feeling of loneliness, of low self-esteem, problems in our relationships, the ‘emotional baggage’ we know we’re carrying around with us but can’t quite turn around to face.
Problems and difficulties don’t go away in a financial crisis; in fact they may get considerably worse. But how do you get the kind of help you need when you feel you can’t afford it? You may want to consider if you can afford not to seek help. Problems and difficulties are unlikely to disappear by just ignoring them. The philosopher and psychoanalyst Carl Jung once proclaimed that stories that are left untold will become toxic, eating away at our core sense of wellbeing and happiness. According to research by the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) a staggering 95% of us agree that it’s a good idea to seek therapy before a problem gets out of hand.
What does money mean to you?
Feeling strapped for cash is both a ‘real life’ issue and an emotional issue. While we can’t ignore the reality that there may be less cash in the bank, we frequently ignore our feelings about money and may use a focus on the practicalities (“I can’t afford it”) to mask the emotions (“I can’t bear it”) that sit beneath this. These feelings may be historical and rooted in our family upbringing and the beliefs and values that surrounded us as we grew up that relate to money and its use and value. Was money used as a weapon or a bribe in your family? Was there a feeling that there was enough to go around, or that money was always a struggle? Did you grow up with a sense that you were entitled to everything you got, or that you deserved very little?
Feelings about money
Only you can decide how much of your feeling that you ‘can’t afford it’ (whether the ‘it’ is counselling, fixing the roof, or buying a much needed pair of shoes) is because there is no money in the bank or because it feels like there’s no money in the bank. Ever wondered how some people seem to manage their money and some people don’t? This isn’t about being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with money, but perhaps has more to do with our relationship with money. Did you grow up in a household where there was an attitude of plenty, or the feeling that everything (money, food, love) was scarce? If it was the latter you may actually have sufficient for your needs, but the anxiety that you might not or that it might all disappear and never come back can bring on such intense feelings of anxiety that you find yourself overwhelmed and increasingly risk adverse. And this prevents you from seeking the help you need….or getting the roof fixed.
Paying for counselling
Whatever the reason there are some ways of getting the help you need for less. For some people it may be possible to get free counselling. Students (either at school or college) will usually have access to free counselling at the institution where they’re studying. Under 25s can usually get some free counselling from local charitable organisations. There may be a wait of 2-3 months, and sessions may be limited to a maximum of 12, but this is still a good option if you are a young person.
Young people and adults may also be able to get 5 to 10 sessions of counselling through their employers, if their employer runs an Employee Assistance Programme. Your Human Resources department is the best place to ask. Alternatively your Doctor’s surgery will have access to counselling on the NHS. Availability varies, but a waiting list of a number of months is usual and an offer of 6 sessions might also be typical.
If you decide to take the private route to seeking counselling or psychotherapy you can expect to get your first appointment within 7 to 10 days. Prices for sessions vary between about £35 and £50 per session. Weekly sessions are often thought to be best, at least to start with. One analogy is to think of it like making a cup of tea – it’s difficult to make a great cup if you’re constantly taking the kettle off the boil.
If attending weekly is more than you can afford you could either opt for short-term therapy or negotiate fortnightly sessions with your counsellor. This will half the cost, but will extend the time it takes to navigate the issues you wish to work on in counselling (due to the kettle going off the boil all the time). For some people this may not be advisable and it is best to be open to having an honest conversation with your therapist about these matters. An alternative is to seek out group therapy, where groups of up to about 8 people meet on a weekly basis with a group psychotherapist. This can often be the cheapest way to receive therapy.
Of course there is much to be gained from exploring your relationship with money with your therapist. I have a quick and easy game called 'Money Habitudes' that we can play in session that will provide you with greater insight into your attitude toward money and which can enable a more in-depth conversation about any anxieties you have about money and affordability. Let me know at your initial consultation meeting if you would like to explore this further.