Talking treatments

Explains what talking treatments are used for, what happens during therapy and how to find a therapist.

Your stories

The importance of choice – access to talking therapies

Al blogs for us about the importance of choice and having access to the right talking therapy to suit you.

Posted on 02/12/2013

Life in limbo – waiting for talking therapy

Francesca blogs about the impact of waiting for talking therapy, as part of our We Need to Talk campaign.

Francesca
Posted on 28/11/2013

Does therapy work?

In our first guest illustration from artist Rubyetc, we look at therapy. Is it right for you and does it work?

Rubyetc
Posted on 07/09/2015

What talking treatments are there?

This page covers:

Which talking treatment is right for me?

It can feel daunting trying to work out which talking treatment is right for you, especially if there are several options available. How effective any treatment is differs from person to person, and you might need to try different things before you find out what works for you. You might want to think about:

  • What you want the therapist to help you with. For example, is it a diagnosed mental health problem, an upsetting event, or your feelings more generally?
  • How much time you want to spend in therapy. Some types of therapy have a fixed number of sessions, while others can continue until you feel ready to stop.
  • What sort of work are you okay with trying. For example, some types of therapy might set you homework or tasks between sessions, while others might involve trying out exercises like visualisations.

Do therapists just use one type of talking treatment?

Some therapists prefer to use one type of therapy over another, while other therapists are trained in many types and may choose an approach they think will work best for you. You may hear them use words like ‘eclectic’ or ‘integrative’ when they describe how they work.

See our page finding a therapist for information about accessing talking treatments through the NHS, and our page on private treatment for more information about accessing private therapy.

A-Z of types of talking treatment

This table lists some of the forms of therapy you might encounter, with links to further information. If you're looking for information about a therapy not listed here, the BACP also has an A-Z of therapy, which covers many more of types of therapy, and explains the different beliefs and approaches behind each one.

Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)

Focus

CAT combines Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’s focus on your current thoughts and feelings, with psychodynamic therapy’s focus on your past experiences. This can help you understand why you think and feel the way you do, and learn how to change the things you want to.

Good for

CAT can treat a range of mental health problems, emotional and relationship difficulties.

There is some evidence to show it is particularly helpful in treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and eating disorders.

Duration

  • Sessions usually last 50 minutes.
  • You might be offered between four to 24 sessions, though 16 sessions are most common.
  • You are likely to be asked to do some ‘homework’ between sessions, which could be filling in a diary or other worksheets.

Who’s involved

You and your therapist.

Availability

Some availability on the NHS, depending on your area. Check with your GP. You can also find a private CAT therapist through the UK Council for Psychotherapy or the Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Focus

CBT looks at how your feelings, thoughts and behaviour influence each other and how you can change these patterns. See our pages on CBT for more information.

Good for

  • There’s evidence that CBT is particularly effective in treating depression and anxiety, but it can also help most mental health problems.
  • There are specially tailored versions of CBT designed to treat OCD, phobias and trauma.
  • CBT can also help you cope with some chronic health problems.
  • See our page on what CBT can treat for more information.

Duration

  • Sessions often last between 30 to 60 minutes.
  • You'll usually be offered between four to 16 CBT sessions.
  • You are likely to be asked to do some ‘homework’ between sessions. See our pages on CBT for more information.

Who’s involved

You and your therapist.

Availability

Available through the NHS, often delivered through your local IAPT service. May be long waiting lists. You can find a private therapist through the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies.

Variants

  • CBT with exposure response prevention for OCD
  • CBT with exposure therapy for OCD or phobias
  • Trauma focused CBT for PTSD
  • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
  • Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Behaviour Therapy.

I found [CBT] really helpful, as well as the breathing technique I was taught. Breathe in and think "I'm in control", breathe out and think "I can let it go". I use this now.

Counselling

Focus

Counselling aims to give you a safe, confidential space to talk about your thoughts and feelings with someone who’ll listen to you. Counselling is often a shorter, more focused treatment than psychotherapy. You are likely to focus on one or two particular issues you want to work on, and you might not go into too much depth about your past or difficult thoughts and feelings.

Good for

  • Counselling can help you cope with mild versions of common mental health problems, like depression and anxiety.
  • Counselling is also often offered to help you handle a specific issue, like bereavement or stress at work.

Duration

  • Counselling sessions usually last 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Counselling can last anywhere from one session to several months’ treatment.
  • How long you continue to see your counsellor depends on the issue you’re seeking help with and how you access counselling.

Who’s involved

You and your counsellor

Availability

Available through the NHS, often through your local IAPT service. You can find a private counsellor through the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy's website It's Good To Talk.

You can also access counselling through charities like Cruse Bereavement Care, Rape Crisis and Relate if you want help with the issue each charity deals with.

Couples and relationship therapy

Focus

Relationship therapy can use techniques from a range of therapeutic styles, with the aim of helping you both better understand your relationship and reflect on how to change and problems you would like to tackle.

Good for

Any issues that you want to address as part of a relationship. This might include:

  • mental health problems as they impact family relationships
  • physical health problems as they impact family relationships
  • other relationship issues like breakdown in your relationship, divorce, becoming parents, bereavement, and other conflict.

Duration

  • Sessions may last 50 to 90 minutes.
  • If you are offered relationship therapy through the NHS, this is likely to be for a fixed number of sessions.
  • If you seek relationship therapy privately, you are more likely to be able to carry on seeing your therapist indefinitely.

Who’s involved

  • you
  • your therapist
  • another person. Often this is your partner, but it can be a family member or colleague, depending on the relationship you want help with.

Availability

Some availability on the NHS. You can find relationship therapy through the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy's website It's Good To Talk.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Focus

DBT was developed from CBT specifically to help people experiencing borderline personality disorder. See our pages on DBT for more information about the goals and process of therapy.

Good for

DBT was specifically developed to treat borderline personality disorder, but it can also be successful for people experiencing eating disorders and self-harming behaviour.

Duration

A course of DBT usually lasts for about a year. This consists of:

  • Weekly one-to-one therapy sessions lasting 50 to 60 minutes.
  • Group skills training, which can be as often as once a week.
  • Homework between sessions.
  • Crisis counselling by telephone when you need it.

Who’s involved

  • you
  • a group of people also on the same course of DBT
  • a team of therapists.

Availability

DBT is available on the NHS in some areas, though waiting lists can be long. There is also some limited availability of DBT privately. See our page on finding a DBT therapist for more information.

DBT has changed my life! It's hard work, intensive, time-consuming... but ultimately, if you're committed, it works.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Focus

EMDR combines talking to your therapist about traumatic experiences with a technique where you make rapid rhythmic eye movements while recalling traumatic events to help you process them. The rapid eye movements are intended to create a similar effect to the way your brain processes memories and experiences while you’re sleeping.

Good for

EMDR was specifically created to help people with difficult traumatic memories, including people experiencing PTSD.

Duration

  • How long your treatment lasts will depend on the traumatic memories you want help with.
  • Treatment can last three to five sessions for simpler or less traumatic events, and longer for more complex traumas.
  • An EMDR session will usually last around 60 minutes.

Who’s involved

You and your therapist.

Availability

Some limited availability on the NHS. You can find a private EMDR therapist through the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy's website It's Good To Talk.

My therapy has consisted of talking and EMDR. I was very sceptical that EMDR would work at all but it seems to be making processing past experiences so much easier.

Family therapy (or Systemic Therapy)

Focus

Family therapy can use techniques from various therapeutic styles, with the aim of helping you to understand as a family any difficulties you’re going through, particularly in your relationships to each other. The therapist can then help you reflect and identify how you can change any problems you might want to.

Good for

Any issues that you want to address as part of a whole family. This might include:

  • mental health problems as they impact family relationships
  • physical health problems as they impact family relationships
  • other family issues like bereavement, adoption, divorce, abuse and other conflict.

Duration

  • Sessions may last 50 to 90 minutes.
  • If you are offered family therapy through the NHS this is likely to be for a fixed number of sessions.
  • If you seek family therapy privately, you are more likely to be able to carry on seeing your therapist indefinitely.

Who’s involved

  • you
  • your therapist
  • any members of your family who feel they would benefit from talking through problems with a trained professional.

Availability

Available on the NHS in some areas. You can find a family therapist through the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy's website It's Good To Talk.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

Focus

Interpersonal therapy focuses on your relationships with other people and how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour are affected by your relationships, and how they affect your relationships in turn.

Good for

Duration

  • Sessions usually last 50 minutes.
  • You’re likely to be offered a set number of sessions, usually 16, through the NHS.
  • IPT for BPD lasts 24 sessions.

Who’s involved

You and your therapist

Availability

Most IPT therapists work in the NHS, often in your local IAPT service. However, you can find private dynamic interpersonal therapy (DIT) through the British Psychoanalytic Council.

Variants

Psychodynamic therapy

Focus

In psychodynamic therapy you’ll talk to your therapist about what’s going on in your life now, what’s happened to you in the past, and how your past experiences can affect how you think, feel and behave in the present.

Your therapist will help you make the connections between the past and the present. They will also help you reflect on how you can start to make decisions and behave based on how you are feeling now instead of what has happened in the past.

Good for

  • Psychodynamic therapy can be most beneficial to people experiencing depression, anxiety, personality or eating disorders, or other personal difficulties – although it can be useful for a wide range of mental health problems.
  • You’re likely to get the most out of psychodynamic therapy, whatever reason you’re seeking therapy, if you’re willing to and interested in exploring your past and your subconscious motivations. This can be a difficult and upsetting process.
  • There is a version specifically useful for people experiencing eating disorders called focul psychodynamic therapy.

Duration

  • Sessions usually last 50 minutes
  • Therapy delivered through the NHS is often for a limited number of sessions of about six to 18 months.
  • Private therapists will often continue treatment until you both decide you’re ready to end therapy.

Who’s involved

You and your therapist

Availability

Some availability on the NHS, often through your local IAPT service. You can find a private therapist through BACP.

Variants

  • Focul psychodynamic therapy for eating disorders.
  • Psychoanalysis. You might hear the terms 'psychodynamic' and 'psychoanalysis' used to mean the same thing. Psychodynamic therapy developed from psychoanalysis.

 


This information was published in February 2016. We will revise it in 2019.


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