Availability of psychotherapy on the NHS 

Psychotherapy is available in some areas of the NHS by referral from your GP.

However, there are often long waiting lists to see psychotherapists, so you may want to consider seeing a private therapist.

In 2010, the government announced plans to make psychological therapies more widely available on the NHS. This is because they have been recognised internationally as effective treatments for common mental health conditions.

Mental health specialists, including psychotherapists, already work in some GP surgeries. If there is not one available in your surgery, your GP may be able to refer you to a:

  • community mental health team (CMHT) – which decides what treatment is needed and refers you to a specific member of the team or to a specialist psychotherapy service
  • specialist psychotherapy service – which carries out an assessment to determine appropriate treatment and refer you to one of its teams of psychotherapists
  • consultant psychiatrist in psychotherapy – who is trained and experienced in a wide variety of methods and can work out which treatments are needed

If you are already seeing a psychiatrist or a local mental health team, they may be able to help you get psychological therapy as part of your treatment.

Alternatively, you may be able to refer yourself through your local NHS trust if they offer psychotherapy services as part of their local mental health services.

Find your local NHS trust.

Private psychotherapy

You can also arrange to see a psychotherapist or psychoanalyst privately

However, as psychotherapy is an unregulated profession, when choosing a private therapist make sure they are experienced in the type of treatment they are offering and have been trained through a recognised professional organisation such as the:

Your GP may also be able to recommend a qualified psychotherapist. It is important to be aware that different therapies may be recommended for different disorders.


If you have a problem, such as mild anxiety or depression, which you feel you may be able to improve without professional treatment, there are many self-help books and programs available. These are mainly based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The websites of charities involved in your condition can also be useful resources.

The Department of Health recommends two software programs that you can access on the internet, which may be useful if you are considering self-help. They are:

NHS Choices also has a number of useful mental health podcasts that deal with issues such as anxiety, low mood, low confidence and panic attacks

Page last reviewed: 22/05/2013

Next review due: 22/05/2015