What to do if you can't afford therapy

BY Gurpreet Raulia

20th Oct 2022 Wellbeing

What to do if you can't afford therapy
More of us are struggling than ever due to the rising cost of living, but fewer can afford therapy. Try these cheap options to look after your mental health
More than four million people in the UK currently suffer from mental health issues, and there can often be confusion as to how to manage these issues, especially in the economic conditions that we currently face
When we are constantly subjected to news about how our lives will be affected by the economic decline in our country, it’s no wonder that our mental health may suffer in parallel.
Various studies and surveys have proven a link between financial worries and depression and anxiety. This is especially exacerbated now that we live in the age of doomscrolling, leading us to believe that there’s no way out.
As we know, therapy and counselling can be expensive, with private psychotherapy sessions starting at £40 per session, so people may not feel that it is a worthy added cost to their monthly expenses, even if it may be more than necessary.
However, therapy is not unilateral anymore, and getting traditional psychotherapy is not the only way to balance our mental health. 

Try self-care apps

Wellness apps like Headspace can help you manage mild anxiety and stress without a therapist
In our technological world, free self help apps are in abundance. The narrative that we can only handle our mental health issues with medical and professional help has shifted.
Now we know that mental health issues exist on an idiosyncratic spectrum—some issues may be “easier” (on paper) to deal with than others. 
In these instances of mild anxiety and depression, and even stress, self-help apps prove effective. They tend to borrow from practices such as mindfulness and meditation to bring the mind some solace. 
"Calm Harm is designed to help you track and resist urges to self-harm"
Apps like Headspace have features that include guided meditation in order to bring you back to centre and realign your breathing and thoughts.
Another valuable app is Calm Harm, which is designed to help you track and resist urges to self-harm. The app provides a variety of activities that you can engage with in order to distract your thoughts from harming yourself.
In addition, there is the Mindfulness.com app has thousands of mindfulness-based stress management content, including breathing exercises and guided meditations for beginners and advanced meditators.  It also shares techniques for easing anxiety and getting better sleep, improving focus, and cultivating happiness.
These apps can be a great way to receive immediate support and attention at the tips of your fingers. Even if you are undergoing therapy, you may not be able to wait for the next session to get help. 

Get counselling on the NHS

Although waiting lists can be long, counselling and therapy is available for free on the NHS. The NHS can provide group therapy and individual psychotherapy, ranging from CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to IPT (interpersonal therapy).
Enquiring about therapy is a huge step you can take towards feeling better.
First, you need to find an NHS therapy service near you and begin a self-referral. It can take a couple of weeks for them to get back to you, but it will be worth it when you know you’ll be saving yourself a pretty penny.
It’s important to know the options that are available to you, and make use of them when you need them.

Improve your physical health and wellbeing

Making sure you get enough REM sleep can help your mental health during your waking hours
The impact that your physical wellbeing has on your mental health is often overlooked and underestimated. Looking after yourself can be a form of therapy in itself.
Many studies show that regular exercise can improve your mental health. Exercise encourages the release of endorphins into the body, better known as “feel-good hormones”. 
A lot of people might find that committing to an exercise routine also gives them a sense of purpose.
Generally, exercise is free, and you can do it in public spaces or in your home. There are now more affordable gyms too, with prices starting at £20 per month, as well as deals for students. 
Getting active isn’t the only thing that can improve your mental health. Attempting to correct your sleep pattern is another way to regulate your emotions and stress levels when you’re awake. We all know sleep is important—it’s when the body regenerates.
Unfortunately insomnia is very common, but there are ways to fix this.
Try apps such as Calm, which have an abundance of “sleep stories” (soothing and softly spoken stories proven to help the body relax).
You can also use a sleep calculator, which helps you plan your sleep so that you wake up feeling the most refreshed.
This is based on the body’s natural rhythms. Your full night of sleep is made up of fix to six “sleep cycles”, and often when we wake up haphazardly and feel super groggy, it’s because we’ve woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle.
If you want to wake up at 6.30am, it’ll recommend that you sleep at 9.15pm or 10.45pm, so you wake up “on the right side of the bed”. This can make all the difference to having better days.

The three Fs

Talking helps—and not to mention, it’s free—whether that’s friends, family or forums. Yes, it’s not necessarily a cure, but it’s definitely a healthy coping mechanism, especially when other options aren’t readily available.
If you are experiencing loneliness, there are a bunch of different online forums for you to speak to people, especially people who may be going through similar things to you.
"If you are experiencing loneliness, there are a bunch of different online forums for you to speak to people"
For example, the Mental Health Forum has many open discussions on a range of mental health issues, as well as a topic on the cost of living crisis, where people can share their concerns and tips.
It is often reassuring to know that other people are going through the same thing as you, and you may find a sense of unity in that. 

Budget better

Despite the alternatives, you may feel most comfortable receiving traditional therapy. While it can be expensive, it may be easier to manage the costs if you pick up new budgeting tips.
It may take some time to save money for therapy, but putting aside a little bit every week can help build up a bank of cash for your sessions.
There are lots of resources for reducing your living costs. Martin Lewis, known as the Money Saving Expert, regularly provides the best tips for people who are struggling with money.
His cost of living survival kit is designed to help you manage your finances, and this can hopefully make space for the things that are really important to you, such as therapy. 
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