1. Overview
  2. How it works
  3. Availability


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.

Mental health specialists, including psychotherapists, already work in some GP surgeries. If there isn't 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're 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.

You may also be able to refer yourself for counselling if it's an option in your local area. This means you can go directly to a professional therapist without seeing your GP first.

Find psychological therapies services in your area.

Private psychotherapy

You can also arrange to see a psychotherapist or psychoanalyst privately.

There's no statutory regulation of counselling in the UK. This means that anyone can practise as a counsellor, even if they have no qualifications or experience.

You can choose a therapist from an organisation with an accredited register.

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

Different therapies may be recommended for different disorders. It's important to make sure you choose a therapist you're happy with, as a good relationship with them is crucial if you're to get the most out of treatment.

The cost of private psychotherapy will depend on the type of therapy and the individual therapist. Ask how much each session will cost and agree on a price beforehand. Typically, a 50-minute one-to-one session will range from £40 to £100.

Self-help therapies

In some cases, you may find it helpful to try an online self-help psychotherapy course instead of seeing a therapist. 

A range of online courses for depression, anxiety and other mental health problems are available. Research shows they can be just as effective as having face-to-face therapy with a therapist.

They're also often available free on the NHS and mean you don't have to be put on a potentially long waiting list before getting treatment.

Read more about online mental health services.

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: 27/03/2018
Next review due: 27/03/2021