Seeking help for a mental health problem

A guide to taking the first steps, making empowered decisions and getting the right support for you.

Why might I decide to go private?

Some common reasons for considering seeking help through the private sector might be:

  • You're not receiving the support you want from your NHS GP.
  • You want a second (or third) opinion, and your NHS GP isn't able to provide it.
  • You want to access support more quickly, for example if there is a long waiting list for talking therapies on the NHS in your area.
  • You're looking for a specialist treatment or more choice of treatments and providers.
  • You want more intensive support, or support over a longer period of time.
  • You want access to treatment that isn’t available through the NHS.
  • You want to attend a private hospital or clinic.

Online healthcare services

Some private companies may provide an online service where you can talk to a registered GP or therapist over video chat, or ask questions via a text messaging service. This is an option you could consider if you find it difficult to attend appointments in person. It may also be less expensive than other private healthcare options.

How do I access private healthcare or therapy?

Private GPs, nurses or clinics

You can:

  • ask your NHS GP to refer you or make a suggestion
  • search online for a private healthcare provider and contact them directly, or use an online listing service.
Check their qualifications

All doctors (including GPs and psychiatrists) and all nurses (including community psychiatric nurses (CPNs)) must be properly qualified and registered to be legally allowed to practice. You can check that they are registered by searching:

You can also ask them directly to show you their qualifications.

"I tried going through the NHS but counselling wasn't available out of work hours, which just wasn't viable for me. I did some research on local therapists in my area, sent a few emails regarding fees and availability, and picked the best fit for me."

Private counsellors or therapists

There are a number of different organisations who can help you find a therapist such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Any therapist you find through this website will have signed up to the BACP’s ethical framework, which means they must:

  • behave in a professional and safe way towards you
  • explain their responsibilities regarding confidentiality
  • tell you their complaints procedure if you ask for it.

(See our page on finding a therapist for more information.)

How do I pay for private healthcare?

Private healthcare can be expensive, so you may need to think carefully about how – or if – you will be able to afford it. Private therapy costs will usually depend on:

  • what the therapist charges
  • how many sessions you go for
  • how often you go.

Some private therapists offer a sliding scale of payment depending on your circumstances.

There are two main payment options:

  • Paying the healthcare provider directly. Your healthcare provider should explain any treatment or appointment costs clearly beforehand. Some providers may have payment plans that allow you to pay in instalments.
  • Taking out private healthcare insurance. Insurance can cover part or all of the cost of your treatment, depending on your policy. Not all policies cover psychiatric treatment or pre-existing conditions, so before taking out any policy you should check it carefully and make sure you understand what it covers. (See our pages on insurance cover and mental health for more information.)

This information was published in December 2017. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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