Psychotherapy - Availability 

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


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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

patientlywaiting said on 13 June 2013

There was keynote NHS (or NHS-endorsed) research some years ago that clearly states that Mental Health is the biggest challenge facing the NHS.

What has been done. Nothing, or worse than nothing.

Even the psychiatrists the NHS and Mental Health Trusts employ are there to fob patients off. I have seen these "professionals" on dozens of occasions - surely at great cost yo the NHS. They attested my need for therapy, but would not refer me.

When Cameron talking about the next big scandal for parliament, the NHS bosses should be considering the NHS's next big scandal - the desertion of people with mental health problems.

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cuttysark said on 26 April 2011

I totally agree with what "yodeller" said on 8/2/11. There is no such thing as choice with the NHS as far as mental health services are concerned, i.e. availability of psychological services is at the discretion of the patient's GP, so if you have an unsympathetic GP then that's the end of that. So, as usual, if you have the money you have the choice (as when celebrities and the rich book themselves into private clinics). The article is at least honest enough to admit the waiting lists may be long, but could have gone into more detail eg on which hospitals have psychiatry depts and where the specialised psychotherapy centres are/who can access these.

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yodeller said on 08 February 2011

Pretty useless.
On NHS CHOICES surely you are meant to say WHERE one can gain the treatment?
How many people with severe mental health problems can afford private treatment???
I want to know where I can gain this treatment on NHS. Through years of experience I do not trust GPs to be helpful and just to prescribe pills - which often they should not be doing as they should only be prescribed by a consultant. I want proper therapy, not pills to dull my mind and keep me quiet.

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