How to access counselling and other therapies

Two kites in a blue sky

Speaking to a counsellor or therapist can be useful in many ways. If you’re experiencing negative thoughts, managing a health issue or dealing with difficult emotions or experiences, speaking to a trained professional can help you find ways to cope or to make some positive changes in your life.

Types of counselling and other therapies

These therapies are often called 'talking therapies', and there are many types to choose from, so learning a bit about what's out there is a good idea. Their effectiveness depends on what's bothering you and what type of session you're most comfortable with, so it’s useful to do your homework. And always use a registered practitioner.

Remember, if one type of therapy, or therapist, doesn't work for you, there could well be another better suited to you. As well as the ones we list below, there are many more specialised therapies available. 

Counselling

This is a confidential discussion between you and your counsellor, usually with the aim of helping you cope with a common mental health problem like stress at work, mild depression, or coming to terms with a bereavement. And the sessions are usually no more than an hour. You might continue treatment for several months, or longer if you think it's necessary. 

Psychodynamic therapy

If you suffer from depression, have a personality disorder or an eating disorder, you might find psychodynamic therapy helpful. Your therapist will help you search for events in your past that might be impacting how you think, feel, and behave now. This involves digging deep into your childhood, and can sometimes be an upsetting, but worthwhile, process.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

In CBT, your therapist can help you tackle self-critical cycles of thought and behaviour, and replace them with more positive ways of thinking and acting. This is especially useful if you're suffering from a mental health issue like depression or anxiety, and can help if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias or chronic health problems. You can also use an online CBT service if going to see a therapist doesn't suit you.

Interpersonal therapy

If your relationships are having a negative effect on your emotional wellbeing and behaviour, or vice versa, then it may be worth trying interpersonal therapy. You may find it especially helpful if you're depressed, have depression during or after a pregnancy, or have bipolar or borderline personality disorder. 

If you need to talk to someone right now, Samaritans has a free 24-hour support service. Call them on 08457 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org

How to access talking therapy

Your GP

The NHS offers free talking therapy services. You can arrange these through your local GP, but be aware that the waiting lists can be long. Before you have your appointment with your GP, do some preparation to help you get the most out of it. You could 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, 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.

Employment assistance programme (EAP) 

If you’re in employment, your employer may have an EAP. Your EAP may be able to provide you with confidential short-term counselling. Check your intranet or speak to your line manager or HR to find out. 

Going private

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. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy has a listing of its registered members.

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. And in some circumstances, BWC may be able to help you access the help you need.

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