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 can talking treatments help with?

Talking treatments can help with:

  • Coping with difficult life events, such as losing your job or a bereavement.
  • Coping with upsetting or traumatic experiences, whether it's something recent or in your past.
  • Coping with difficult emotions, for example if you struggle with low self-esteem or anger.
  • Coping with long-term physical health conditions, by helping you learn how to cope with the symptoms and their impact on your mental wellbeing.
  • Depression and anxiety. Talking treatments have been shown to be particularly useful for some people in treating and preventing common mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
  • Other mental health problems. Talking treatments can help with a range of diagnoses, and specific talking treatments have been developed for some mental health problems. See our information about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) as a treatment for Borderline Personality disorder (BPD) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Phobias.

Some talking therapies are particularly helpful for certain types of problems and have been recommended specifically by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). See our A-Z of mental health for more information about NICE-recommended treatments for specific mental health problems.

I had CBT one-to-one sessions but couldn't get it to work for me, couldn't get my head around it. I was lucky enough to be offered a place on a group course - 'anxiety and anger management' - and it's changed my life.

What alternatives are there?

If talking treatments are not right for you, there are alternatives. Some people find the following helpful:

  • Medication - there are drugs which can be prescribed to treat different types of mental health problems, or to reduce the symptoms. See our pages on medication for more information.
  • Arts therapies are a way of using the arts – such as, music, art, dance or drama – in a therapeutic environment. See our pages on arts therapies for more information.
  • Complementary and alternative therapy share a belief in the body's ability to heal itself. See our pages on complementary and alternative therapy for more information.
  • Ecotherapy is the name given to a wide range of programmes that aim to promote good mental and physical wellbeing through outdoor activity in a green environment. See our pages on ecotherapy for more information.
  • Electric Convulsive Therapy (ECT) can be an effective treatment if you are seriously depressed and no other treatment has worked for you. See our pages on ECT for more information.

Tried CBT and it didn't help. Mindfulness is the only thing that's helped in over 30 years.

Talking treatments or medication?

You might be offered both talking treatments and medication as part of your treatment, and many people find that taking medication helps them feel stable enough to get the most out of a talking treatment. However, other people find medication or talking treatments alone are more helpful.

Whether you find talking treatments or medication more effective depends on you, because different people will find different things helpful. It's important to remember that you don't have to choose between either talking treatments or medication – it's your choice what treatment you want to try, and this could be both together.

See our pages on having your say in treatment and psychiatric medication for more information about making a choice about your treatment.

I used a conjunction of medication and CBT. I was so impressed by CBT that I decided to train as a psychotherapist myself.


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

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