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King's Lynn counsellor sees lockdown demand fall as long NHS waiting lists highlighted

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A Lynn counsellor has said the level of demand is down by a third of what it was prior to lockdown.

James Rye has been offering a professional counselling and psychotherapy service at Connections Counselling Ltd in Lynn since 1997, but has noticed a fall in clients during the pandemic period.

As a private counsellor, he postulated on the NHS being swamped with a high demand instead due to the financial strain on individuals at this time.

James Rye. Picture: BACP (43075399)
James Rye. Picture: BACP (43075399)

"My normal working life has radically changed," Mr Rye said. "I am still seeing people but not in the same volume as prior to lockdown."

The 67-year-old has been offering telephone and video calls for many years, and has noticed a huge change in the 20 years he has worked in the industry.

Mr Rye said: "It's grown in popularity and social acceptance. When I started 20-years-ago, there were only two of us in Lynn, but I often joke that you now see more counsellors in Lynn than people!"

Stock image of a wife consoling her husband during a counselling session with a therapist
Stock image of a wife consoling her husband during a counselling session with a therapist

Part of the explanation for this is the sheer amount of university and college courses on offer for people to learn psychology and counselling.

Mr Rye also referred to the growth of cognitive behavioural therapy, a psycho-social intervention and talking therapy which aims to develop personal coping strategies and improving emotional regulation.

The NHS can offer group sessions of up to five or six people, as well as one-to-one therapy, with private counsellors such as Mr Rye offering individual sessions.

He added: "When I first started we mainly saw women but now we see both men and women, as well as children. Mental health has grown in acceptance and there is a great awareness nationally.

"There is a very limited provision in the NHS particularly for children, and people who want it cannot always afford it. Just like solicitors, most counsellors are trying to make a living and are self funded."

Another Lynn-based counsellor James Carver, located at St Ann's House, agreed that private counsellors have had plenty of capacity available during the lockdown period.

"You would have thought there would be a tsunami or surge of people coming for help," Mr Carver said.

"People are still finding it difficult to step forward which is difficult and upsetting. Speaking to other counsellors, it seems the NHS has such long waiting lists. There are private, self-employed people like myself ready and waiting. It is a bit of a mystery at times."

Mr Carver has worked as a counsellor for 12 years having obtained a degree in the field. Just like Mr Rye, he sees people of all ages.

On the lockdown period, he told the Lynn News: "It is difficult to tell if it will pick up. It has given me more time to do a lot of training and update my skills.

"The technology has not been a problem for my clients, just the amount of people coming forward. It could be British reserve perhaps. Often people will get their cars serviced but they will not get their mind serviced.

"The reason I work is because I like seeing people change their lives. Going along to talk can make a lot of difference."

Mr Carver will typically see a maximum of eight to nine people a day. Any more than this would be too much for the brain to cope with.

Mr Rye states most of his clients typically visit once a week or once a fortnight. Some come for between four and ten sessions; others come for a much longer period.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the counsellors have been holding sessions over the telephone or via video calls.

Counsellors work in confidential settings with individuals who are experiencing personal difficulties, to help them overcome their problems and to make appropriate changes to their lives.

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