Self-help therapies

Self-help therapy has some advantages over professional face-to-face counselling. It's convenient, cheap, and you can do it in your own time and when it suits you.

Self-help therapy can also be a useful first step if you're unsure whether or not to seek further help.

It can be convenient if you don't want to have face-to-face therapy for cultural or family reasons, or because you can't get out easily because you have health or mobility problems.

If you don't feel better after trying self-help therapy or you feel worse, it's a good idea to talk to your GP.

You can also get guided self-help using a book or online mental health tool on the NHS.

You don't need a referral from your GP.

You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service.

You can also get a referral from your GP if you prefer.

Self-help books

There are thousands of self-help books available in bookshops, libraries and online. Some are excellent, but many are not.

Check whether a book was written by an accredited counsellor or therapist with lots of experience.

Or look for self-help books that have been endorsed by a professional organisation or health professional.

'Overcoming' self-help books

The Royal College of Psychiatrists endorses the "Overcoming" self-help series.

These books and CDs are based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and cover more than 30 common mental health problems.

Titles include "Overcoming Anxiety", "Overcoming Low Self-Esteem" and "Overcoming Grief".

They're available from bookshops and libraries. You can also download them from the Overcoming website.

Books on Prescription

You can also find NHS-endorsed books for common emotional and mental health problems on the Reading Well Books on Prescription website.

Online mental health tools

Some online mental health tools have been approved for use by the NHS.

Research shows that these can be just as effective as face-to-face therapy with a therapist for depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

The kind of support offered by NHS psychological therapies services varies.

Some allow you to work through a self-help course online with support from a health professional.

Others offer live therapy with a therapist via instant messaging or a webcam.

You can also join an anonymous online community where you can meet and interact with other people who have similar mental health problems to you.

You don't need much experience with computers or technology to use them.

You can also find mental health apps and tools in the NHS apps library.

Phone and email counselling

Phone and email counselling are alternatives to face-to-face therapy.

They can be ideal if you're shy or don't want to meet the therapist, or if you can't find one in your area.

They save travelling time, can avoid the problem of finding childcare, and are available during evenings and weekends.

You can also have 3-way conversations for couples therapy.

Phone counselling is just like having a face-to-face session, except that you talk to a trained counsellor over the phone.

Phone and email counselling are increasingly being offered by private therapists, and sometimes by workplaces and charities.

If you feel you can't go on

If you're in a crisis and want to speak to someone straight away, call:

Both are free and available 24 hours a day.

Media last reviewed: 02/03/2018

Media review due: 02/03/2021

Page last reviewed: 06/01/2016
Next review due: 06/11/2018