We are supposed to be living in more enlightened times, yet more people than ever are suffering from mental health problems.
Statistics show that:
- 1 in 4 of us will experience some kind of mental health disorder in the course of our life
- 1 in 6 of us will suffer from depression - most commonly between the ages of 25 and 44
- 1 in 10 of us is likely to suffer from disabling anxiety at some stage in our life
Where To Start
Mental health problems, especially if they are long-lasting (chronic), can be debilitating and affect your general health. Your body may respond physically to depression or anxiety much like it does to physical illness. Mental health problems can also be caused by a physical condition.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and will check for physical problems which could be affecting your mental health. Some GPs have an interest in more common mental health problems and may be able to help you without referral, or he or she will help you decide what type of mental health professional and what kind of therapy might be best for you.
However, you may not want to talk to your GP if you think you are experiencing mental health difficulties. So you may decide to approach a professional directly (self-refer). You need to remember that most private medical health insurance policies require you to be referred by your GP to a psychiatrist in order for you to be able to claim. Either way, ideally you should have a thorough assessment by an experienced mental health professional, who will be able to advise you and help you choose the right therapy.
Finding the right therapist and the right approach to therapy is important. Whether you are planning to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist, you should start with a phone call to him or her. Ask about his or her approach to dealing with mental health issues and how he or she generally works with Patients. You could describe your reasons for wanting to make an appointment and ask if he or she is experienced in dealing with your particular issues. If you do not think you are going to be comfortable talking to him or her, then our advice is to look elsewhere.
It will probably take several weeks before you become fully comfortable with your therapist. If you still aren't feeling comfortable after two or three visits, let your mental health professional know and explain why you feel that way. The two of you need to work together as a team in order to get the most out of your treatment.
Psychiatry deals with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health conditions. Psychiatrists are Medical Doctors who have gone on to specialise in Psychiatry. Unlike Psychologists, they can prescribe medication as well as recommend other forms of treatment.
Psychiatrists deal with problems such as anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), personality disorders, schizophrenia and paranoia, depression and bipolar disorder (manic depression) plus eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
Common medications include antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and occasionally a short course of benzodiazepines (for the relief of anxiety). If you are under the care of a Psychiatrist, a lot of your treatment may be focused on medication management. However, medication is often combined with other types of therapy. If so, your Psychiatrist may provide your psychotherapy, or refer you to a counselor or other type of mental health professional.
Psychology is the science of mind and behaviour. A psychologist has a Doctoral degree (PhD, PsyD, or EdD) or Master's degree in Psychology. Psychologists are qualified to provide counseling and psychotherapy. Psychology is often used either alone or in combination with medication.
Although the terms Counseling and Therapy (short for Psychotherapy) are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between psychotherapy and psychological counseling. Counseling focuses on specific issues and is designed to help you address a particular problem, such as addiction or stress management. The focus may be on problem solving or on learning specific techniques for coping with or avoiding problem areas. Counseling is also usually more short-term than therapy.
Psychotherapy focuses on a broader range of issues. The goal is to uncover patterns of thinking and to become aware of their effect and then learn new, healthier ways to think and interact.
How Does This Therapy Help?
- It can help you understand your behaviour, emotions and any ideas which contribute to your illness.
- It can help you identify and understand life problems or events such as a major illness, a death in the family, loss of your job or divorce, which can contribute to your illness. It can help your understand which aspects of these problems you may be able to solve or improve.
- It can help you regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
- It can help you learn how to cope and give you problem-solving skills.
Types Of Psychotherapies
There are numerous approaches to psychotherapy, also called "talk therapy", and finding your way through the maze of therapies can be confusing.
Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic Therapies The idea behind these therapies is that people's lives are affected by subconscious issues and unconscious conflict. The goal of your therapist is to help you bring these issues to a conscious level where they can be understood and dealt with. This may involve analysing dreams or exploring your personal history. This is the most complex of all the "talking therapies" and typically lasts much longer than other therapies.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy trains you to question and control troubling and repetitive thoughts. For example, miserable or self-hating thoughts or irrational fears. It can be very helpful in anxiety and depression.
It can also be used for phobias and OCD. Your therapist will show you how to face your fears, for example of open spaces, social situations or insects, bit by bit. He or she may also be able to help you if you have problems like an irrational compulsion to wash your hands or to check things over and over again. Your therapist will help you gradually stop these activities and will support and reassure you while you face the anxiety this change will create.
CBT does not look at what caused the troubling behaviour and thoughts, but at ways to move forward and overcome your problems. It works with the immediate conscious problem in a common sense and supportive way. It aims to train you to think and feel differently. Sessions have a clear plan and structure and you are usually given homework to do in between. Typically, the treatment doesn't last more than a few months, although your therapist will often offer you follow-up support.
You Should Check Your Therapist Out
Whatever form of therapy you choose, it is always important to ensure that your therapist is qualified and registered. The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) is a large psychotherapy registering body which covers a broad range of different organisations and categories of psychotherapy. All members are required to meet the minimum standards of training for their particular approach.
The British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) is a specialist offshoot of the UKCP, whose members are required to undertake longer, more intensive training including personal psychoanalysis.
These two umbrella bodies require their member organisations to follow disciplinary procedures, ethical codes of practice and requirements for Continuing Professional Development. So, membership of the UKCP or BPC is a useful guide when looking for a therapist. But an additional personal recommendation is invaluable.
The Medical Chambers Kensington has recently been joined by Dr Stephanie Vergnaud, a French psychiatrist who specialises in child and adolescent psychiatry. She has extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of all childhood and adolescent disorders with an interest in neuro-developmental disorders and their impact on family life and schooling. She also has a keen interest in perinatal psychiatry with clinical expertise in the early mother-baby relationship.
All the Psychiatrists and Therapists at The Medical Chambers Kensington are experts in their field and of course members of the relevant regulatory body. As always, the web is a mine of information so we guide you here to a small group of websites which you may find useful: