Talking Therapy: A Quick Guide.

Talking therapy is to the mind what exercise is to the body. It doesn’t need to be something you frantically reach for when things start to go wrong. Ongoing maintenance and engagement with your mental wellbeing can help you thrive in all areas of life.

There are many types of therapy. For certain problems and conditions, one type of talking therapy may be better than another. Different talking therapies also suit different people.

Therapy is not for everyone but it is a great option to explore when considering how to move forward in the right direction.

Why do people get talking therapy?

The Self Space shared some great reasons to try talking therapy.

Reasons to try therapy from a wellness perspective:

  1. You want to thrive in your career
  2. You want to make good relationships great
  3. You want to understand your purpose
  4. You want to develop the tools to deal with the world how it is
  5. You want to love and accept yourself
  6. You want a place to practice for real life
  7. You want an hour each week to focus on yourself
  8. You want to live in a regulated way and feel better

Reasons to try therapy for your psychological wellbeing:

  1. You’re stressed and everything you feel is intense
  2. You’ve suffered a trauma and you can’t stop thinking about it
  3. You’re going through a difficult period of change & transition
  4. You’re using a substance to cope
  5. You have recurring headaches or a run down immune system
  6. You feel disconnected from previously loved activities
  7. Your relationships are strained (inside or outside of work)
  8. Your friends have told you they’re concerned

What types are there?

All talking therapies involve working with a trained therapist. This may be one-to-one, in a group, online, over the phone, with your family, or with your partner.

Some therapists are trained in several different styles and may integrate these to tailor their approach for you.

common types of talking therapy are:

  • Counselling – talking openly about your feelings and emotions to help you gain a better understanding of yourself and how to deal with emotional issues. The therapist will listen to you in a non-judgemental way and help you find your own solutions to problems. They won’t usually give advice or tell you what to do.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – is a type of behavioural therapy. It aims to improve your mental wellbeing by helping you understand how your thoughts can lead to unhelpful emotions and behaviours (see more about CBT).
  • Family therapy & relationship counselling – helps to resolve problems with relationships.
  • Creative therapies – using arts-based activities in a therapeutic environment, with the support of a trained professional.


  • Computerised CBT (cCBT): This is CBT done from your computer at home. It has a 50% success rate in treating depression and anxiety, which is similar to antidepressant medication [source: NICE].

Some computerised CBT courses recommended by the NHS are:

How does it work?

If you are receiving therapy for a specific condition, there are guidelines on how many sessions are optimal. It can be a joint decision between you and your therapist if you need more sessions.

Your first session is often a ‘taster session’ where you and your therapist might discuss:

  • the type of therapy they practice
  • how long the therapy will last and what the sessions will be like
  • what you want to get out of the therapy
  • their confidentiality policy
  • what to do if you they have to cancel a session or you miss a session
  • if there is any cost involved (this usually applies to private therapy)
  • any concerns or worries you have about the therapy.

How do i get therapy?

On the NHS

You can receive FREE therapy through the NHS:
– by self-referral
– by talking to your GP

To find your local the Psychological Therapies service you can search online here.


The benefits of private therapy are: 
– you have more choice
– there may be shorter waiting times, and 
– you can be more flexible about who you see. 

The main drawback is the cost. Some therapists offer reduced fees for people on low incomes. You can ask the therapist if they offer this. Below are a list of affordable therapy services in London.


Some charities offer low-cost or free talking therapies for people on low incomes. A few examples of charities who offer counselling are:

At your place of work or education

Many schools, universities and work places offer free or substituted therapy options. Talk to a senior, someone you trust, HR or the disability team to find out more. Information can often also be found online or through your company’s intranet pages.

Things to know before you start

Often the hardest part is taking those first steps to starting therapy. It can be an intimidating but also empowering process. Here are some points to know, shared by the Self Space. Read the full article here.

  1. Sometimes, you’re not going to like or enjoy therapy.
  2. You don’t have to stick with the first therapist you meet.
  3. Think about your goals for therapy.
  4. You won’t have a cinematic breakthrough in every session.
  5. There will be times that you will not like your therapist.
  6. Therapy is a place to practice for real life.
  7. You can ask your therapist anything.
  8. Journaling post-session is a good way to get the most out of therapy.
  9. You don’t have to be unwell to start therapy.
  10. It’s okay to write down what you want to talk about.
  11. You will benefit from clearing time around your session.
  12. Expect to talk about your history.

Other things you may want to consider:

  • How important is it that your therapist matches you in characteristics like race, ethnicity, gender, presentation or sexual orientation?
  • Are you looking for religious or spiritual beliefs to be incorporated into therapy?
  • What type of personality works best for you?

Therapy for specific identities

Working with a therapist who understands your social identity, background and experiences can potentially improve the connection, trust and working relationship you have with them. This may lead to better progress and outcomes from your therapy sessions.

Therapy support for people of colour:

Therapy support for LGBT people:

Alternatives to talking therapy

Therapy is not for everyone. If it doesn’t feel quite right for you, or you are on a long waiting list to be seen, there are plenty of other options to explore.

  • Self-help books – Reading Well shares books recommended by health experts and people with lived experience of the conditions and topics. Through their scheme you can loan the books out for free from most libraries or have the book prescribed by a doctor.
  • Peer support – Click here for more info.

If you need urgent help

If you need help during a mental health crisis or emergency you can contact a number of places:

Not sure how you’re feeling? Try the NHS mood self-assessment tool.


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