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Explains what talking therapies are, what happens during therapy, how to get the most from therapy and how to find a therapist.
It's common to feel worried or unsure about what to expect from therapy. This page covers:
Your therapist might describe themselves in various ways, such as:
All of these titles should mean that the person you see is trained in delivering therapy, although they will differ in their educational backgrounds and levels of training.
But whatever their title and level of training, it matters that the person delivering your therapy is someone you feel comfortable talking to.
Some therapists might call your first session an 'assessment', a 'taster session', a 'consultation' or an 'intake session', but these generally involve the same thing. In this session, you and your therapist might discuss:
If you're unsure about any of these it's ok to ask your therapist questions at any time before, during or after your sessions. For more information on what to expect in your first session see the BACP factsheet on what happens in your first session with your therapist.
"My first session was bit of a blur – I had no clue what to say. I think I mainly just cried and apologised! But it got easier over time when I realised that my counsellor wasn't going to laugh at me or tell me to go away."
How sessions are structured can vary depending on depending on the type of therapy you're getting and the type of problem you want help with.
Therapy can be:
Sessions can be delivered:
One-to-one sessions typically last between 50 minutes and an hour, but group sessions can sometimes be longer. It's common for sessions to be held once a week, but you might also agree to see your therapist more or less often than this.
Sessions may take place:
What you might cover in therapy sessions also varies. For example, your therapist may go through specific exercises with you, or you might have a more general discussion about how you're feeling. They may ask you questions about:
But it's important to remember that you don't have to talk about anything you're not ready to talk about, or do anything you don't want to do. (See our page on getting the most from therapy for more tips.)
In most cases, yes. Confidentiality is an important part of building trust with your therapist. However, there are some exceptions to this, which allow the therapist to work responsibly.
It's common to feel a range of emotions after a session. For example, you might come out of your session feeling:
"Some days I left therapy feeling tired and drained. Other days I felt relieved, as if a weight had been lifted."
Sometimes therapy sessions can bring up feelings that are difficult to cope with, and you might feel nervous about going back, or like you want to quit. If you feel like this it can help to:
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.