Explains what talking therapies are, what happens during therapy, how to get the most from therapy and how to find a therapist.
Getting the most out of therapy can sometimes feel difficult, especially if you're offered a type of therapy that isn't right for you, or worry that you've not been offered enough sessions to make a difference.
These are positive steps you can take to get the most out of any type of therapy you are offered:
It could help to ask yourself beforehand:
It can help to set some small goals which you feel are achievable. Discuss this with your therapist so you can both aim to reach a shared goal.
Ask your therapist how they think this kind of therapy can help you, and what to expect from it. If they use terms you don't understand, ask them to explain. Our section on common terms used in therapy might help.
Therapy sessions are your time, and you shouldn't feel pressured to talk about something you don't feel is important.
They might be able to change the sessions so that they suit you better.
If you have therapy face-to-face, these are some things you could try to make the sessions feel more comfortable:
For example, you could ask to change where you sit, or adjust the lighting or the temperature of the room so you feel more relaxed.
For example, this could be a treasured item or something you can fiddle with.
It could help you relax if you know someone will be there to meet you when the session is finished.
Many of us may have therapy over the phone or via an online, rather than face-to-face. If you have therapy remotely, you may worry that it will be harder to have an open and honest conversation. This may feel especially hard if you used to have face-to-face therapy but this is no longer possible.
These are some tips to help make your sessions feel more comfortable:
Before the session, try to talk to your therapist about:
If you’re unsure about how to use video calling technology, ask a friend, family member or someone else you trust to help set this up. Age UK has a guide to using video calls, which may also help.
If you can, try to find a place in your home where you won’t be disturbed. If you’re worried about being heard by people you live with, you could try using headphones for the session.
You might also find it useful to turn off any digital notifications such as email or text messages, to avoid getting distracted.
For example, you could hold a comforting object or take a moment to focus on your breathing.
Your session may bring up difficult emotions. To help manage this you could try a relaxing activity, such as listening to your favourite piece of music, before going back to your usual routine.
You may want to let someone you trust know that you’re having the session, so that they can check in with you afterwards.
It can take time to build trust and feel comfortable with a therapist. This could feel even more difficult when you’re not seeing them face-to-face.
Try to be kind to yourself if it takes time to get used to having therapy in this way. And remember that you may be able to have face-to-face sessions again in the future.
It's common to have a mixture of thoughts and emotions about finishing therapy. It's likely to depend on the experience you've had and the relationship you've formed with your therapist. There's no one particular way you're supposed to feel.
If you're worried about how you'll cope, tell your therapist how you're feeling. They might be able to help you plan things you can do after your therapy has ended to help yourself, think of alternatives to try, and work out your next steps.
"Therapy can be frustrating at times, but as long as you are ready to look at your problems honestly it can be a really useful space to talk about what's bothering you."
Therapeutic relationships can be challenging. It can take time to build trust and feel comfortable with a therapist, and it's common to have times when you feel frustrated or upset after a session.
But sometimes you might find that, even after trying it for a while, you're really not happy with how it's going. In this case you may want to consider:
If you have a serious concern about any treatment you've received, you can complain.
Your therapist should tell you their complaints process if you ask them for it. If that doesn't feel possible you could ask your therapist what professional body they're registered with, then make your complaint through that body (all professional bodies should have a complaints procedure you can follow).
If you're unsure how you feel and want another opinion before making a complaint, these services can help:
See our legal pages on complaining about health and social care for more information about your rights.
This information was published in June 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
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