Counselling is a talking therapy that involves a trained therapist listening to you and helping you find ways to deal with emotional issues.

Sometimes the term "counselling" is used to refer to talking therapies in general, but counselling is also a type of therapy in its own right.

What can counselling help with?

Counselling can help you cope with:

  • a mental health condition, such as depressionanxiety or an eating disorder
  • an upsetting physical health condition, such as infertility
  • a difficult life event, such as a bereavement, a relationship breakdown or work-related stress
  • difficult emotions – for example, low self-esteem or anger
  • other issues, such as sexual identity

What to expect from counselling

At your appointment, you'll be encouraged to talk about your feelings and emotions with a trained therapist, who'll listen and support you without judging or criticising.

The therapist can help you gain a better understanding of your feelings and thought processes, and find your own solutions to problems. But they will not usually give advice or tell you what to do.

Counselling can take place:

You may be offered a single session of counselling, a short course of sessions over a few weeks or months, or a longer course that lasts for several months or years.

It can take a number of sessions before you start to see progress, but you should gradually start to feel better with the help and support of your therapist.

People across Wales can now access free online therapy without needing to go through their GP. People aged 16 and over experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, depression or stress can sign-up for a 12-week course of SilverCloud online therapy via their smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

Private counselling

If you decide to pay to see a private therapist, make sure they're qualified and you feel comfortable with them.

The cost of private counselling can vary depending on where you live, with a session costing anywhere from £35.

Many private therapists offer an initial free session and lower rates for students, job seekers and those on low wages.

You should ask about charges and agree a price before starting a course of counselling.

Charities and voluntary organisations

Some charities and voluntary organisations also offer counselling. These organisations usually specialise in a particular area, such as couples counselling, bereavement, or family guidance.

You do not need a referral from a GP for an appointment for these services, but you may have to pay a fee to cover the cost of your sessions.

Charities that may offer counselling include:

  • Cruse Bereavement Care – provides bereavement advice and support
  • Relate – offers relationship advice and counselling
  • Rape Crisis – for anyone 16 years old and over including family and friends, who has been affected by rape, sexual abuse or any other form of sexual violence.
  • Samaritans - for people to talk about whatever's troubling them at any time.
  • Victim Support – provides victims and witnesses of crime with help and support
  • Childline - for children and young peoepl under 19 years old

You may also be able to access support groups through your local community, church, or social services.

Finding a qualified therapist

As counselling involves talking about sensitive issues and revealing personal thoughts and feelings, your counsellor should be experienced and professionally qualified.

Reputable therapists will be registered with a professional organisation that has been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).  This means they have met the PSA's required professional standards to practice.

You can find a therapist near you by using the postcode search on the BACP website.

Other talking therapies

As well as counselling, there are many other types of psychological therapies (or talking therapies), that involve talking to a therapist about your feelings or problems.

Benefits of talking therapies

Although there are lots of different types of talking therapy, they all have a similar aim: to help you feel better. Some people say that talking therapies do not make their problems go away, but they find it easier to cope with them and feel happier.

Types of talking therapy

Talking therapies are psychological treatments for mental and emotional problems like stress, anxiety and depression.

There are lots of different types of talking therapy, but they all 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.

The therapist helps you understand and cope with the problems you're having.

For some problems and conditions, one type of talking therapy may be better than another.

Different talking therapies also suit different people.

Talking therapies on the NHS

You can get some talking therapies, like counselling for depression and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), on the NHS.

You can refer yourself directly to an NHS talking therapies service without a referral from a GP.

If you prefer, see a GP and they can refer you and share relevant information about you.

If you’re under 18, or want to get help for someone under 18, find out how to get mental health support for children and young people.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

The aim of CBT is to help you explore and change how you think about your life, and free yourself from unhelpful patterns of behaviour.

You set goals with your therapist and may carry out tasks between sessions.

A course might include 5 to 20 sessions, with each session lasting 30 to 60 minutes.

CBT has been shown to work for a variety of mental health problems, including:

CBT is available on the NHS for people with depression, anxiety disorders and other mental and physical health problems that it's been proven to help.

There are also self-help therapies like books and computer courses based on CBT to help you overcome common problems like depression.

You can try some practical self-help cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques on the Every Mind Matters website.

Guided self-help

Guided self-help is recommended as a treatment for some types of depression, anxiety, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

With guided self-help you work through a CBT-based workbook or computer course with the support of a therapist.

The therapist works with you to understand your problems and make positive changes in your life.

Guided self-help aims to give you helpful tools and techniques that you can carry on using after the course has finished.

During the course your therapist will support you with face-to-face, online or phone appointments.

Behavioural activation

Behavioural activation is a talking therapy that aims to help people with depression take simple, practical steps towards enjoying life again.

It may be offered one-to-one or in a group with regular meetings or phone calls with a therapist.

The aim is to give you the motivation to make small, positive changes in your life.

You'll also learn problem-solving skills to help you tackle problems that are affecting your mood.

You'll usually be offered about 16 to 20 sessions.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

IPT is a talking treatment that helps people with depression identify and address problems in their relationships with family, partners and friends.

The idea is that poor relationships with people in your life can leave you feeling depressed.

Depression can in turn make your relationships with other people worse.

You may be offered IPT if you have mild to moderate depression that hasn't responded to other talking therapies, such as CBT.

IPT is usually offered for 16 to 20 sessions.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a talking therapy that's been developed to help people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

People who have PTSD may experience intrusive thoughts, memories, nightmares or flashbacks of traumatic events in their past.

EMDR helps the brain reprocess memories of the traumatic event so the negative images, emotions and physical feelings they cause have less impact.

EMDR can be a distressing process, so it's important to have a good support network of family and friends around you if you plan to try it.

A course of treatment is likely to be 8 to 12 sessions.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness-based therapies help you focus on your thoughts and feelings as they happen, moment by moment.

MBCT is used to help prevent depression coming back, and to help some types of anxiety and stress.

MBCT combines mindfulness techniques like meditation and breathing exercises with cognitive therapy, which is about learning how to manage your thoughts and how they make you feel.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy looks at how childhood experiences and thoughts you're not aware of (your unconscious mind) affect your thinking, feelings, relationships and behaviour today.

You talk to a therapist, one-on-one, about your thoughts and feelings. This type of talking therapy may be offered for around 16 sessions.

Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) may be offered on the NHS to people who have depression or depression plus a long-term health condition.

Couple therapy

Couple therapy can help people who have depression that may be linked to problems in their relationship with their partner. It's sometimes called behavioural couple therapy (BCT) or couple therapy for depression (CTfD).

Couple therapy usually includes 15 to 20 sessions over 5 to 6 months.

It may be offered by an NHS talking therapies service if other therapies, like CBT, have not helped. Your partner will need to be willing to go through therapy with you.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 08/03/2024 10:50:12