Talking therapy involves talking to a trained therapist about what you’re thinking and feeling.
This helps you and your therapist spot the underlying meaning and patterns behind your thoughts, which might be causing you problems.
What talking therapy is used for
Talking therapy, or sometimes known as psychotherapy, is used to treat a wide range of emotional issues and mental health conditions, including:
What it’s like to have talking therapy
Talking therapy is based on the idea that by talking about our thoughts and feelings with a therapist, we can work to understand why we think and feel the way we do.
Once we understand that, we can start to recognise and change unhelpful patterns and lead happier lives.
It usually happens in one-to-one sessions between you and a trained therapist. You may be able to have a parent or carer in sessions with you, if you want to.
Talking therapy usually lasts longer than some other talking therapies, like counselling or CBT. Most people have talking therapy sessions 1 to 3 times a week, for a few months to a couple of years.
In some cases, you might be offered a short course of talking therapy, which is usually just 6 sessions.
Starting talking therapy
A course of talking therapy starts with an initial assessment, so your therapist can understand more about you and what you need from psychotherapy.
This usually involves having 1 to 3 sessions with your therapist.
If you’re under 18, your therapist may also meet with your parents or carer, or someone else in your network, to talk about the kind of treatment they think will work best for you.
What happens in a talking therapy session
Talking therapy sessions usually last around 1 hour. You and your therapist will usually meet in person, in a private office where you can talk in confidence about what’s going on for you.
Your therapist might ask you some questions and will encourage you to be honest about whatever is going on in your mind.
The kinds of things you might talk about in therapy can change from session to session. For example you might talk about:
- how you’re feeling
- what you’re thinking about
- your relationships with your family and friends
- things you’ve talked about in previous sessions
Some people find it difficult to talk about certain subjects with their therapist. Your therapist is used to listening to people who are struggling with their mental health, and is trained to make it as easy as possible for you to open up.
But the important thing to remember is that you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to.
Over time, you and your therapist will work to find the underlying beliefs and experiences behind your thoughts and feelings. Where those beliefs and experiences are causing you to struggle, your therapist will help you to challenge them, and work towards feeling better.
Getting the most out of talking therapy
Talking therapy can bring up difficult memories, emotions and thoughts, and it’s important that you feel safe and comfortable discussing these with your therapist.
If you’re struggling with your therapy sessions or you feel like it’s not working, talk to your therapist about how you’re feeling.
Talking therapy is very personal and sometimes you might need to work with a different therapist to get the most out of it.
Talking to your therapist about how you’re feeling will help you work out what changes you might need to make.
How to get talking therapy
You’ll usually only be offered talking therapy or psychotherapy for free through a specialist mental health team.
Paying for talking therapy
You can also pay to see a therapist privately. Costs usually start around £40 for a 1-hour session.
Some therapists offer lower cost options for people on low incomes. For example, where you make a donation of what you can afford, or you get a discount on the full price of a session.