Counselling and Psychotherapy for Doctors
Author: Katya Mishanina, Medical Doctor
All doctors, just like the rest of society, are affected by inevitable changes of life.
Some struggle with professional problems, pressures at work, incidents with colleagues and patients/clients, others with personal problems, sense of purpose, relationship difficulties, financial and housing problems.
These issues in turn generate stress, anxiety, depressive and confidence issues in ourselves as humans.
We also frequently discount the fact that we work in highly pressured, psychologically challenging and emotionally hectic environment where there is little space for us to look after ourselves and reflect on daily challenges.
No wonder that when an additional stressor is added to this “spicy soup”, we can find ourselves overwhelmed and unable to cope effectively.
The thing about doctors is that often we have a sense of stigma, a sense of failure, if we need help. We know intellectually that we are mortal humans, but may feel humiliated if we fall ill, get depressed or struggle with a divorce.
The reality is, there is nothing to be ashamed of. We have to accept that we are vulnerable physically and emotionally and that sometimes we also need help.
By getting help with whatever we are struggling is not a sign of failure, it is a sign of strength. This shows our insight and our awareness of the problem. By getting relevant emotional and psychological help, adjusting or work environment we can continue providing safe and valued care to our patients.
WHAT HELP IS AVAILABLE?
PRACTITIONER HEALTH PROGRAMME (PHP)
PHP is a dedicated mental health service for doctors living and/or working in London, Kent, Sussex and Surrey. After the initial assessment they can provide short-term psychotherapeutic interventions, including CBT and counselling, referral to addiction and other services. The service is confidential and free. You can self refer by emailing or calling them. Further information is available at http://php.nhs.uk
This is probably a good place to start if you are not sure what is best invention for you.
Unfortunately, long term therapy is not available via this service but you would be recommended private practitioners if you decide to continue after your initial “treatment”.
PRIVATE COUNSELLING AND PSYCHOTHERAPY
If you have an idea what help you need and prepared to invest into your emotional and psychological wellbeing, then private sector might be for you.
Counselling is usually fairly short, and aims to help you to be clearer about your problems and to come up with your own answers. It is often used to help someone cope with recent events they have found difficult.
Psychotherapy is usually long term (from 3 month to a few years) and helps to you learn about your self, your condition, your moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
There are different types of psychotherapy. Most popular are Psychodynamic (psychoanalytic), Interpersonal, Cognitive Behavioural and Humanistic psychotherapies.
Although the approaches may be different, they all help you understand yourself, which instead can help you to make changes in your life. Psychotherapists may use a combination of techniques to suit you.
HOW TO FIND A THERAPIST?
Once you familiarise yourself with different types of psychotherapy (see links above), you will instinctively feel what would work for you. Listen to that feeling and search for the therapist who is using the techniques you are attracted to.
It is best to arrange an initial consultation with 2-3 different practitioners. Even though you would have to pay for the initial session with them, after meeting them in person you will feel which one is right for you. It is very important to find someone you “click” with.
All licensed therapists are listed on the UK Council for Psychotherapy website.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS?
In the initial consultation you can discuss your main issue(s), ask the therapist about the techniques they use, and consider practical issues (whether they can see you at different times due to shift work, whether they charge you when you are on holidays etc).
Usually the therapists sign an initial “contract” with you asking you to commit to a particular number of sessions (6, 8, 12) after which the progress will be reviewed and decision whether to continue will be discussed.
Psychotherapy usually involves regular weekly meetings.
You might be given “homework” (e.g. a chapter in a book, a writing exercise) or techniques (e.g. meditation, mood diary) to practice at home in between sessions. However, this would depend on your and your therapist’s preferences.
HOW MUCH SHALL I EXPECT TO PAY?
The fees range dramatically in London starting from £50 for 50 minutes and going up to over £100. Sessions are cheaper outside of London.
It sounds a lot but try to think about it as an investment into your wellbeing.
From experience, I can tell that this is the money best spent.
You can see a supervised trainee psychotherapist for a fraction of the price. All trainees are registered with UKCP website
I hope you find a resolution to whatever problem you are experiencing.
Please submit any comments, questions queries below.