How to find counselling & support services.

Reasons for thinking about this might be because you would like space to talk over concerns or feelings related to having congenital heart disease or because of other life issues. This is a brief guide to the main ways you can find a counsellor or contact psychology services.

Some Definitions

Counselling provides a regular time and space for people to talk about their troubles and explore difficult feelings, in a confidential setting. A counsellor should respect your viewpoint, while helping you to deal with specific problems, cope with crises, improve your relationships, or develop better ways of managing what life throws at you.

Psychologists aim to reduce distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being. They work with people with mental or physical health problems – which might include anxiety and depression and adjustment to physical illness.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a short-term talking treatment that has a practical approach to problem-solving. It aims to change patterns of thinking or behaviour that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel.

For more information about counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other psychological therapies please see the links at the end.

Finding Counselling and Psychological Support

If you attend an ACHD Clinic ask your Specialist Nurse if there are any psychological or emotional support services based at the Hospital you attend. This varies across the country and between hospitals and there may not be a general service.

There is more likely to be specific psychology services, a few specialist centres also have a counselling service.

Via your GP for adults:

Your GP should be able to refer you to the local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Service. These have been developed for adults in England and are particularly for people experiencing mild to moderate depression and anxiety. They might offer:

Online support

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Counselling and Interpersonal Psychotherapy

CBT Groups on worry, sleep and  low mood

Mindfulness Groups

Wellbeing Workshops on topics like assertiveness, confidence building and relaxation

Behavioural Couples Counselling, Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR)

Support is time limited, between 6-16 weeks and there may be a waiting list: Search for your local IAPT Service online.

Here is the Department of Health leaflet, Which Talking Therapy for Depression which outlines what psychological help may be available for mild to moderate depression through your local IAPT service (in England)

Other arrangements are in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Ask your GP wherever you live to find out what the options are for support.

For more persistent or severe mental health issues your GP can also refer you for assessment by your local Adult Mental Health Service.

Via your GP for under 18’s:

The Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Service (CYP IAPT) in England has started to be rolled out to provide help, especially with anxiety and depression. Different arrangements are in place for Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland, they have a more fully developed counselling service based in schools. Counselling may be time limited and there could be a waiting list. Ask your GP about the options available where you live.

Your GP can also refer to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). There is often a waiting list for assessment plus there might also be service access criteria based on severity of difficulties experienced.

More information on counselling and psychological support resources for children and young people here.

Check out local council and voluntary/charitable organisations that provide counselling.

Youth Counselling Services: Based in your local area, sometimes run by the local authority or by a charity. These vary across the country and in the age group that can access the service. Some will go up to 24 years, others up to 18 or 19 years. Quite often young people can refer themselves.

School Counselling Services: Based at the school attended. These are well developed in Wales and Northern Ireland. There is more patchy provision in schools in England and Scotland.

College or University Student Support Service: Based at the college or university attended. Your local Council usually lists local agencies that provide counselling on their website, alternatively, telephone them or ask at the local library.

Other common types of services found are: Drug and Alcohol Counselling, Bereavement Counselling, Relationship Counselling and Palliative Care through Hospices. Some local MIND associations might provide counselling for general emotional/mental health issues.

Some of these services may be free and others ask for a donation towards counselling, but this is usually on a sliding scale dependent upon income. The counselling could be time limited and there might be a waiting list.

Private counselling and therapy.

If you are able to pay, there are many counsellors and psychotherapists that work privately. Costs are usually from £40 upwards an hour. It is important to check out that the counsellor/therapist is properly qualified. Underneath is a list of the umbrella organisations that you can contact to find a counsellor/therapist in your area.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) the umbrella organisation for counselling in the UK and details of local practitioners

British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies  can provide details of accredited cognitive behaviour therapists

United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) is the umbrella organisation for psychotherapy in the UK and lists practitioners

Further Information

MIND has further information on the different Talking Therapies and Counselling + Cognitive Behavioural Therapy + Arts and Creative Therapies.

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