The day after my first GP appointment, I called Mind to arrange counselling. I made the call sitting outside in the cold on my lunch break, trying to find a place where no one would hear me. I was anxious. The first time I saw a GP about my mental health, in 2003, I was also given a number for counselling. Back then, I was similarly sitting on a park bench making the call from my mobile. The receptionist who took my call insisted that I do an assessment over the phone, including the question: “Do you have any suicide plans?” I did. It threw me to be asked it so blatantly. I now know to be prepared for that, but back then it was my first ever contact with mental health services. I didn’t want to discuss my suicide plans over the phone, in a public place, and I was living in a house with 7 other people so there was nowhere I could go to make a private call. I asked her whether I had to answer, she said yes, and I hung up. She hadn’t taken my contact details and I didn’t seek help again for 6 months.
This time, the Mind receptionist put me straight through to the counselling coordinator, but I got her voicemail and left a message. I was nervous about that because it meant I then couldn’t control when I took the call, but I didn’t want to put it off. Ten days later, I hadn’t been called back so I tried again. Again, it went to voicemail, I left my details again and waited for a callback.
This time, the coordinator responded the following day. Apparently she couldn’t make out my number in the first voicemail, so she was glad I called back. This seems likely: my phone is on its last legs and I’m hanging out for an upgrade. She took some basic contact details and said they can offer out-of-hours appointments if I can “make the time” to come in for an assessment during working hours. Because of the Christmas break, the next available appointment wouldn’t be for three weeks.
So my assessment is booked for 7th January and I received a confirmation letter to my home address, with a leaflet explaining Mind’s counselling services. It will be £15 per session as I’m working full time (significantly cheaper than if I went private), but there’s a limit of 8-12 sessions. I’m hopeful that will be enough, but if it’s not, I’m concerned that I will have built rapport with this counsellor and then have to stop and find someone else. They offer group therapy after individual counselling is finished, but group therapy sounds like my worst nightmare. My other concern about Mind is not being able to choose my counsellor. If I was going private, I would research counsellors beforehand, but here I have to go with what I’m given.
It’s a week now until my assessment. I still don’t know what to expect; the leaflet says it’s to “assess your needs appropriately”, but who knows what that means? I would have liked more specific information, such as what sort of questions I will be asked. The coordinator was also vague about how long I’ll have to wait to see a counsellor, as it depends on how “flexible” I am. I suppose that means I choosing between a short waiting time and seeing a female counsellor in the evening (my minimum requirement).
But I appreciated that the coordinator was kind, and at least she didn’t ask me to be assessed over the phone.