Disability and Illness

As a society, we often take our health for granted. Realistically we will all experience ill health or disability at some point in our lives yet many people don’t acknowledge this. In some respects, we appear to be immune to it until we experience it or are affected by it on a personal level. Dealing with disability and illness creates an awareness of our own mortality which can be uncomfortable for some.

According to government figures published in 2014 there were over 11 million people in the UK with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability. The majority of people acquire disabilities later in life and only 17% of people with disabilities were born with their disability.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines a person with disabilities as “someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. 

Illness is defined by an individual a disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind.”


Disability and illness are life changing events that affect not only the individual but all those around them. Disability and illness may impact on your identity, independence, self-image, self-esteem, confidence, relationships, sex life and mood. You may experience grief and loss not dissimilar to the experience of losing a loved one.  You may grieve for the loss of your life as you knew it or for the loss of opportunities and choices you feel you may have had if you weren’t ill or disabled. This is a very normal response to such a life changing event. Having to adjust and accept such profound life changes can throw up many personal challenges and emotional difficulties.

Living with a disability or illness can teach you a lot about life, about yourself as a person and about how resourceful you are. At times being ill or disabled may feel unfair and you may have to face many obstacles mentally, physically and emotionally, overcome frustration, isolation and loneliness, and it can be hard to remain positive when you have to overcome things each and every day.

For those affected by disability and illness accessing psychological support may throw up many challenges. The barriers individuals may face trying to access services may make attending regular appointments virtually impossible. It is worth noting that it may not only be difficult for the individual with a disability or illness to access support but also their care givers. Living with a disability or illness can be an isolating experience for all of those affected by it.

The barriers to accessing therapy which individuals with disabilities and illness may include:

·      Availability – Are there specialist services available locally?

·      Accessibility – Is the building accessible? Is there disabled parking? Appropriate toilet facilities?

·      Transport – Is there suitable transport available to get to the appointment?

·      Support – If an individual needs support to get to their appointment is that support available? Needing support can exacerbate the loss of independence and may result in feeling like a burden. It can also take away an individual’s privacy. Individuals may not be able to do anything independently.

·      Financial cost– The travel costs as well as potential care costs to support individuals getting to appointments.

·      Fatigue – Many people with disabilities and illness have fatigue and this may be a big factor in committing to attend regular appointments. The stress of planning and relying on others to be able to attend appointments may also be a consideration.

·      Resources – Often there is a greater emphasis on an individual’s physical needs and not their psychological needs.

·      Stigma – Often people find it difficult to ask for the help they need for fear of stigma. Individuals don’t want their families and friends to worry about them and may put on a brave face.

There are many barriers that people with disabilities and illness may face when trying to access psychological services but the list is none exhaustive.


Treatment options

Online medical services are convenient and fit around daily life as an inclusive resource.  The National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommend that if you are unable to use face to face services that telephone counselling should be offered. Therapy should be adapted to meet the needs of the client and the same standard of care offered. babylon therapy offers both audio and video therapy from the comfort of your own home with experienced therapists.

The benefits of accessing online therapy include:

·      It’s cheaper due to no travel costs.

·      It reduces stigma due to greater privacy.

·      It promotes client autonomy, separation, self-development and resourcefulness empowering the client. This is something you can do alone.

·      It can create safety as it offers clients a platform to disclose any neglect or abuse promoting the safeguarding of vulnerable adults.

·      It can enhance an individual’s quality of life allowing them to access support when needed. Individuals can manage their therapy and access it when they feel able to.

·      Fundamentally it removes barriers to services.

For those caring for a loved one with disability or illness, it can sometimes be hard to be their main source of support. It can be a difficult time of adjustment for all of those affected. Care givers may also feel isolated as their commitment to caring for a loved one can leave them restricted by their care responsibilities and forgotten about. Online therapy is a resource which can ensure everyone has access to the support they need.

Online therapy can help people through those difficult days as it’s not always easy to talk to the people closest to you for fear of upsetting them. Exploring thoughts and feelings take courage and it can be scary for individuals to seek support when they need it the most. Therapy offers individuals a place to feel fully accepted and supported in a non-judgemental environment. Thoughts and feelings directly impact on your mood and ability to cope, therefore talking through these issues can help you to deal with your distress and encourage positive change. Therapy can help restore an individual’s sense of self, promoting their independence, increasing their self-esteem and confidence once more.

Written by Helen Rutherford, Dip H.E, B.A (Hons) Counselling, MBACP






Wilson, S.(2003). Disability, counselling and psychotherapy. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan.