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Talking therapy and counselling

Explains what talking therapies are, what happens during therapy, how to get the most from therapy and how to find a therapist.

What alternatives are there to therapy?

Although many people find therapy helpful, it's not for everyone. If therapy isn't right for you just now, or you're currently on a waiting list, or you just want more options to explore, you could try:

  • Self-help books. Your GP might recommend particular titles from a Reading Well scheme called 'Books on Prescription'. This scheme is supported by most local libraries, so you can go and check the books out for free – you don't actually need a prescription from a doctor.
  • Peer support. This brings people together who've shared similar experiences and can empathise with what you're going through. (See our pages on peer support for more information, including how to find a suitable support group.)
  • Ecotherapy. This is the general name for a wide range of programmes which focus on incorporating nature into therapeutic activities, such as gardening, being outdoors or working with animals. (See our pages on nature and mental health for more information.)
  • Complementary and alternative therapies. These include options such as yoga, massage, meditation and herbal remedies. (See our pages on complementary and alternative therapies for more information.)
  • Medication. There are various medications you doctor might offer to prescribe you which can help reduce the symptoms of different mental health problems. You might sometimes be offered medication alongside therapy.

Our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem, self-care and mental health support services also cover different options that might be available to you.

Therapy, medication or both?

In some situations your doctor might offer you either therapy or medication alone, or often both together. This might be because:

  • Medication could help you get more benefit from therapy, as it can ease your symptoms so you're better able to explore your thoughts and feelings.
  • Medication is often something you could try right away, whereas you might have to be on a waiting list for a while before you can get therapy through the NHS.
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) might recommend a particular treatment path for your diagnosis, which includes medication.

Whatever you're offered, it's important to remember that:

  • What you find works best will be personal to you. Different medications and therapies work differently for different people. You might have to try a few things to work out what helps you most – and you might find that different combinations suit you better at different times in your life.
  • It's your choice what treatment you want to try, and you usually have the right to refuse medication or therapy if you don't want them.

See our pages on psychiatric medication for more information.

Mental health apps

There are various apps available that you could use to help yourself day-to-day. But it's hard to know which ones are worth trying. Would you like some recommendations? We've put together a library of safe apps that meet our high quality standards.

Explore mental health apps

This information was published in June 2018. 

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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