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How to access counselling and other therapies

Accessing a counsellor or therapist.

There are lots of different types of therapy, and most involve confidential conversations between you and a registered practitioner. This might be one-on-one, in a group, over the phone, or with your family or partner.

Counselling, or talking therapy, can be painful or uncomfortable, and can bring up difficult memories. Be prepared to open up and face some tough emotions as part of the process.

Dave's story
Dave's story

Types of talking therapy

When you decide to get counselling, do some research to understand the different approaches and find out what you’re comfortable with.

Sometimes we find that one type of therapy, or one particular therapist, doesn't work for us. If you experience this, don’t give up on the idea of therapy. Try another method or practitioner to see if it suits you better.

The types of talking therapy that you’re most likely to encounter are:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

    Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, teaches you practical techniques to change how you think about your life and develop realistic and positive feelings and behaviours.

    CBT is offered for things like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias or addiction.

  • Person-centred therapy

    Person-centred therapy is based on an honest, understanding and non-judgemental relationship between you and your therapist. In this sort of counselling, you’ll take the lead in the conversation and your therapist will encourage you find your own solutions. 

    Person-centred therapy is suitable for people who want to work on their relationships or are going through grief, depression, anxiety or stress.

  • Psychodynamic therapy

    Psychodynamic therapy explores how unconscious thoughts affect your behaviour and emotions. It’s a way to help you understand your own memories and experiences and the impact they have on your life.

    Psychodynamic therapy is often used to treat depression, anxiety, addiction and eating disorders, and things like feeling a lack of purpose in life or having problems maintaining relationships.

How to access talking therapy

There are lots of different ways you can access counselling. Some are free but might have long waiting lists or a limited choice of options, while others cost money but offer more choice.

  • Your GP

    The NHS offers talking therapy services that you can access through your GP. NHS waiting lists can be long, and all types of therapy might not be available in your area. 

    Before you have your appointment with your GP, do some preparation to help you get the most out of it. Write down how you’re feeling, or print out any information you’ve found that helps you explain how you’re feeling. Mental health charity Mind has some advice to help you get the most out of your GP appointment.

  • Self referral

    You may be able to refer yourself to therapy, depending on what services are available in your local area. Check out the NHS services finder to search for talking therapies available in your area.
  • Use a charity

    Depending on the issue you want help with, you may be able to access free or low-cost talking therapy through a charity. For example, Anxiety UK offers reduced-cost therapy to its members. Mind's Infoline can provide you with information about other support services in your area.

    If you are a current or former employee of a bank we may be able to help you access the help you need.

  • Employee assistance programme (EAP)

    If you’re working, your employer may have a confidential employee assistance programme, or EAP. Your EAP may be able to provide you with short-term counselling. Find out more through your HR team or line manager, or on your intranet. 
  • Private therapists

    If you find that waiting lists are too long, or that your local services don't offer a treatment that fits your needs, you can look for a private practitioner. Be aware that this can be expensive, and always make sure you use a registered therapist.

    Explore the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy member registry to find a therapist who's right for you. 

TIP: If you’re working, your employer may have an employee assistance programme (EAP) that can provide you with confidential short-term counselling. 

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