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The benefits of talking therapy

Mental and emotional health: talking therapies

Media last reviewed: 11/07/2013

Next review due: 11/07/2015

Talking therapies can help all sorts of people in many different situations.

Research shows that talking therapies work just as well whether you’re old or young, male or female, white or black, gay or straight, rich or poor. Your educational background makes no difference either.

Talking therapy is for anyone who’s going through a bad time or who has emotional problems they can’t sort out on their own.

You may be able to get talking therapy on the NHS in your area. However, there may be a waiting time or you may have to travel for treatment. Talking therapy is widely available privately.

Why talking therapy may help

Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger than to relatives or friends. During talking therapy, a trained therapist listens to you and helps you find your own answers to problems, without judging you. The therapist will give you time to talk, cry, shout or just think. It’s an opportunity to look at your problems in a different way with someone who’ll respect and encourage your opinions and the decisions you make.

Usually, you’ll talk one-to-one with the therapist. Sometimes, talking treatments are held in groups or in couples, such as relationship counselling.

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

Here are some situations where talking therapy may help.

Talking therapy for mental health problems

Talking therapies can help if you have:

They're often used if you’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder

Talking therapies are commonly used alongside medicines.

Read more about coping with mental health problems.

Talking therapy after difficult life events

If you’re going through a sad and upsetting time, talking therapies can help you deal with it. This could be after a relative or friend has died, after finding out you have cancer, if you’re struggling with infertility or if you've lost your job.

Physical illness and talking therapy

Talking therapies can improve your quality of life if you have a lifelong physical illness, such as:

People with long-term health conditions are particularly vulnerable to depression, and talking therapies have been proven to help.

Read more about how to look after yourself if you have a long-term health condition.

Talking therapy for the over-65s

Older people, especially those with depression, are as likely to benefit from talking therapies as everyone else. Depression in later life, especially over the age of 65, is often dismissed as a normal part of ageing. However, this isn't the case and talking therapy can improve your enjoyment of life if you’re feeling low.

Take this short test to see if you're depressed.

Talking therapy and past abuse

If you’ve been physically or sexually abused, or experienced discrimination or racism, you may feel better able to cope with life after a course of talking therapy.

Talking therapy for relationship problems

Couples therapy can save a relationship that’s in trouble or help you through separation and divorce. Ideally, a couple should go to counselling together, but if your partner refuses to join you, counselling can help you sort out lots of things on your own.

Read about how to have a healthy divorce.

Troubled families and talking therapy

Family therapy is talking therapy that involves the whole family. It can be especially helpful for children with depression or a behavioural problem, or whose parents are splitting up. It can also help families where someone has an eating disorder, mental health condition or drug problem.

Talking therapy for anger

Talking therapy can help people who find it difficult to keep their anger under control.

Read more about how to manage anger.

Children's talking therapy

Talking therapy works as well for children as it does for adults. NICE (the independent organisation that advises on the effectiveness of medical treatments) recommends talking therapy rather than medicines for children who are depressed. It can also help children with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and children who are in physical pain much of the time.


Page last reviewed: 03/01/2014

Next review due: 03/01/2016

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