When someone first suggested to me that I might consider having talking therapy, my first thought was of Tony Soprano.
I am not the head of an organised crime group; nor do I battle guilt over my murderous past, yet just like the lead character of Nineties crime drama series The Sopranos, I approached the idea of therapy with some trepidation.
But, after a difficult school year and then a cancer diagnosis, I eventually arranged to have weekly, hourly, face-to-face counselling sessions.
Talking therapy has been a great help to me during my time off work for my treatment: I meet with someone who is highly-trained and non-judgemental, in a professional but relaxed setting. The time is dedicated purely to me, how I am feeling and the plans or changes I want to make in the future.
If that sounds self-indulgent, well, that’s because it is. Nevertheless, I still think that therapy is something that we should all try – teachers in particular.
Therapy for teachers
Why would a teacher need counselling? According to a 2017 survey by the Education Support Partnership, 75 per cent of teachers say they have faced physical and mental health issues in the last two years because of their work, and a third said that their job has made them feel stressed most or all of the time in the past few weeks.
Many of us will know of colleagues who have experienced these issues, if we haven’t ourselves.
Ultimately, teaching is a stressful and highly pressured career. And while access to therapy is available for free to anyone, I wonder whether more needs to be done to make teachers more aware of the benefits of talking therapy – and to help them to fit therapy into their already busy lives.
How we could actually improve provision in practice, though, is another question. For instance, when my school brought in non-profit therapy organisation Insight Health Care to provide free, optional, after-school training in CBT and mindfulness, some of my colleagues at the time felt that the school’s resources would be better spent managing workload.
However, telephone counselling can be accessed by anyone through Relate or countless other providers (see the list of suggestions below) – something that senior leadership could easily champion.
Perhaps, alongside mentor programmes and staff dodgeball, it would make sense for school leaders to make some time available for regular counselling. A one-off or short course of telephone appointments could be easily accommodated in a half term for a teacher who has requested support.
How to access talking therapy
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting that all teachers need counselling, or that therapy is necessarily going to be helpful for everyone. But, if you have ever had that Friday feeling – not the “yay, it’s the weekend” one; the “I can never do this again” one – please bear in mind that an hour of support a week may make all the difference to your well-being.
If you’re looking for access to talking therapies, the following providers can help: