Other psychological therapies 

As well as counselling, there are many other types of psychological therapies, including psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Psychotherapy

Like counselling, the term "psychotherapy" is sometimes used to refer to talking therapies in general. However, psychotherapy is also a specific type of therapy. It may also be described as psychoanalytic or psychodynamic.

Psychotherapy is a more in-depth form of therapy than counselling, and it can be used to address a wider range of issues.

A psychotherapist can help you explore your thoughts, feelings and beliefs, which may involve discussing past events, such as those from your childhood.

They'll help you consider how your personality and life experiences influence your current thoughts, feelings, relationships, and behaviour. This understanding should enable you to deal with difficult situations more effectively.

Depending on your problem, psychotherapy can be short or long term. Adults, young people and children can all benefit from psychotherapy. Sessions can take place on a one-to-one basis, in couples, families, or in groups whose members share similar problems.

The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme provides a type of specific evidence-based brief psychotherapy called dynamic interpersonal therapy (DIT). This offers a focused approach over 16 sessions of therapy. 

Read more about psychotherapy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that helps you understand the links between thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This allows you to manage your problems by helping you change the way you think and behave.

CBT doesn't remove your problems, but helps you manage them in a more effective way. It encourages you to examine how your actions and thoughts can affect how you feel.

It's based on the idea that the way you think about a situation affects how you feel and act. In turn, your actions influence the way you think and feel. It's therefore necessary to change both thinking (cognition) and action (behaviour) at the same time.

CBT is an active therapy, and you'll be expected to work on your problems between sessions, trying out different ways of thinking and acting, as agreed with your therapist. The aim is for you to develop the skills to become your own therapist.

CBT is usually a short-term treatment. For example, a course may consist of between 6 and 24 one-hour sessions.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends the use of CBT for:

CBT is widely available on the NHS for treating depression. If you feel CBT may be helpful, you should first discuss it with your GP.

Private therapists are also available. Before starting CBT with a private therapist, you should check the therapist is accredited by the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP).

Computerised CBT (CCBT) packages are also available. CCBT is delivered in a series of weekly sessions and should be supported by a healthcare professional. NICE recommends CCBT for some people with depression.

Read more about CBT and access to CCBT

Humanistic therapy

Humanistic therapy incorporates your body, mind, emotions, behaviour, and spirituality. It encourages you to think about your thoughts and feelings, and take responsibility for your actions.

A humanistic approach provides a distinct method of counselling and focuses predominantly on an individual's unique personal potential to explore creativity, growth, love, and psychological understanding.

Group therapy

Group therapy aims to help you find solutions to your problems by discussing them in a group setting. Sessions are led by a facilitator who directs the flow of conversation.

As well as group therapy, many people find psychoeducational groups or courses very helpful. These provide information and skills without having to discuss personal problems in-depth.

NICE recommends group therapy for people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and for children and young people with mild depression.

Many people are initially anxious about attending a group, but find they benefit from meeting people who share the same experiences and work together to overcome them.

Relationship therapy

Relationship therapy is where people who are having relationship difficulties work with a therapist to resolve their problems. It can be used to help couples, family members, or work colleagues.

NICE recommends relationship therapy for people who've tried individual therapy without success.

Family therapy can be used for children with depression, or where a family member has a mental health condition, such as anorexia or schizophrenia.

Mindfulness-based therapies

Mindfulness-based therapies help you focus on your thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them.

They can be used to help treat depression, stress, anxiety, and addiction. Techniques such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises can also be incorporated.

NICE recommends mindfulness-based therapies to help people avoid repeated bouts of depression.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment that uses eye movements to stimulate the brain. It's been shown to make distressing memories feel less intense.

EMDR can help a person deal with traumatic memories, such as those that occur after an accident, or after sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

In particular, NICE recommends EMDR for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Telephone counselling

Samaritans provides a confidential listening service for people who would like to talk about whatever is troubling them. Everything is off the record and without judgement.

CBT expert

Professor David Clark explains how cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) works and who could benefit from it.

Media last reviewed: 22/04/2015

Next review due: 22/04/2017

Page last reviewed: 26/11/2014

Next review due: 26/11/2017