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.

Posted on 28/11/2013

On my therapist, who was always there

Brooke blogs on how important it was for to have one person she could turn to throughout her recovery.

Posted on 09/03/2017

What are sessions like?

On this page you can find information about:

How are sessions delivered?

Talking treatment sessions can take a number of different forms, depending on your individual needs, your choice and the type of therapy you're offered or which is available.

Your treatment might be delivered:

  • individually, with just you and the therapist
  • in a group
  • with your family members, partner, friend or colleague (see our page on types of treatment for more information about relationship therapy and family therapy).

You might get treatment at:

  • an NHS clinic
  • a hospital
  • school
  • university
  • work
  • your therapist's office or home
  • a charity's therapy rooms
  • over the phone
  • through a computer programme or book (see our pages on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for more information on CBT delivered via computer or book).

As I got older and started work, I still struggled with low self-esteem and was plagued by memories of my childhood. I was lucky enough to have frequent face-to-face sessions with a person from Mind.

You might be treated by a:

  • counsellor
  • psychotherapist
  • psychologist
  • psychiatrist

How are sessions structured?

The structure of the therapy sessions may vary, depending on:

  • the type of therapy you have
  • how the therapy is delivered – for example, one-to-one or in a group
  • the problem you want help with – for example, your therapist may go through specific exercises designed to help you with the problem you're experiencing; or you might have a more general discussion about how you're feeling

What will they ask me?

What a therapist asks you may vary depending on the problem you want help with and the type of therapy you are getting. Therapists may ask you about:

  • your relationships
  • your childhood
  • your emotions
  • your thoughts
  • your behaviour
  • situations or events you find difficult

How long is each session?

Sessions can last between 30 minutes to an hour and a half, but most commonly sessions last for 50 minutes.

The length of sessions may vary depending on the type of therapy you have, the problem you want help with and how well you're feeling. The way in which therapy is delivered may also affect the length of sessions – for example, group sessions may last a little longer.

How often will I have sessions?

How often you have sessions may also vary. You may see a therapist once a week, or two–three times a week. This may depend on:

  • the type of therapy you have
  • where you access therapy from
  • how well you're feeling – when you're unwell, you may see a therapist more frequently

I had 12 weeks of face to face CBT sessions and I wouldn't now be in such a positive place without them.

How long will I stay in therapy?

How long you have therapy for may depend on where you go and who you see. Therapy can be:

  • time-limited, meaning it may last a set number of sessions. Most therapists through the NHS offer time-limited sessions.
  • open-ended, meaning it can continue for as long as you need it. Most private therapists will take clients on for open-ended work.

How will I feel when it ends?

You may find when therapy comes to an end, you can feel a mixture of feelings. You may feel:

  • sad that therapy and the relationship with your therapist has ended
  • positive to move on

This may depend on the experience you've had of therapy and the therapeutic relationship you've formed with your therapist. If you are concerned about how you will feel when therapy ends, you can talk to your therapist about this at any time during treatment.

I'm nearing the end of my time in therapy... May sound silly but I'll be slightly lost and a bit sad when it ends.

What should I do if I'm not happy with the therapy?

It's important to remember that therapy can be challenging, and hard work. Therapeutic relationships can be challenging because they often involve talking about difficult feelings, thoughts and situations. It can also take time to build trust and feel comfortable.

It took many sessions before I was able to begin to let go and trust the therapist, nice as he was.

However, you may not be happy with the therapy you are getting for a number of reasons. For example, you may be unhappy with:

  • the type of therapy you are getting
  • the relationship with the therapist

If you are not happy with any aspect of your therapy, you may want to consider:

  • asking your therapist whether they can offer a different type of therapy
  • talking to your therapist about the difficulties you are having in the therapeutic relationship
  • seeking another therapist, if accessing therapy privately
  • asking your GP or the NHS service if there is another therapist you can work with

If you are very unhappy with the treatment you have received, you can make a complaint or seek further support:

See our pages on making a complaint about your treatment for more information.


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

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