Explains what talking therapies are, what happens during therapy, how to get the most from therapy and how to find a therapist.
"For me it took a couple of tries before I found the right therapist that I felt comfortable with."
Your GP might refer you to a suitable service after speaking to you – that service will then get in touch with you. See our page on talking to your GP for guidance on discussing your mental health with them.
Some areas run services which you can contact directly to refer yourself for a talking therapy. Your GP might give you the number of a service you can call, or you might find one through IAPT.
Also known as 'psychological services (IAPT)' in some places, this is an NHS programme offering talking therapies for common mental health problems, which you can often refer yourself to without going through your GP. Most areas in England have an IAPT service, but the kinds of therapies available differs from region to region (IAPT is not currently available in Wales). To find IAPT services near you, use the online IAPT service finder on the NHS website.
"I'd definitely tell anyone who was accessing talking therapies for the first time to be patient and don't give up! The NHS can be difficult to navigate but it's worth it in the end."
Unfortunately it's very common to have to spend time on a waiting list before getting therapy through the NHS. While you're on a waiting list it might help to:
Our page on facing and overcoming barriers to seeking help gives more suggestions.
"It's been a total rollercoaster for me – I've tried many different therapies, often not realising what was going on as the NHS wasn't clear at explaining things to me. I've found bits that worked, bits that didn't work, and bits that might've worked if I'd realised I could change therapists. Now I'm working with a therapist who I really trust and, with her support, my life has dramatically improved."
Some community and charity sector organisations may offer free or low-cost talking therapies. For example:
See our page on seeking help through the third sector for more information. Some charities also provide telephone listening and emotional support services. These are not counselling or therapy, but can be helpful if you need to talk to someone in between sessions.
There are many reasons you might consider going private, although it's not an option for everyone because it can be expensive. If you decide to explore private therapy, it's a good idea to look for a therapist using the online search function of a reliable website which only lists therapists who are registered with a professional body. For example:
Before committing to paying for therapy it may be helpful to ask:
See our page on private sector care for more information on paying for healthcare.
This information was published in June 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.