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Self-help therapies

Self-help therapies are psychological therapies that you can do in your own time to help with problems like stress, anxiety and depression.

They can be a useful way to try out a therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to see if it's for you.

They can also be convenient if:

  • you're short of time
  • you have family or work commitments
  • you cannot get out easily

If you do not feel better after trying a self-help therapy, there are other things you can try, like a type of talking therapy.

A GP or local psychological therapies service can tell you more.

Guided self-help on the NHS

Guided self-help is where you work through a self-help workbook or computer course with the support of a therapist.

You can get some psychological therapies, including guided self-help, on the NHS.

Psychological therapies services are also known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services.

You can refer yourself directly to an IAPT service without a referral from a GP.

If you prefer, you can talk to a GP and they can refer you and share relevant information about you.

If guided self-help is available from the IAPT service you're referred to, and it's the right choice for you, the service will help you get started.

Online tools for mental health

There are lots of online tools you can use to help improve your mental health. Some are available on the NHS.

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

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

Others offer live therapy with a therapist using instant messaging.

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

You do not need much experience with computers or technology to use them.

Find out more about online tools for mental health at the Mind website.

Am I eligible for NHS online tools?

Whether you can get access to an online tool on the NHS depends on the problems you're experiencing and how severe they are.

It also depends on whether the NHS IAPT service you're referred to offers online tools for mental health.

Self-help books

Check whether a book was written by a counsellor or therapist who has lots of experience and is registered with a professional body, such as the British Psychological Society.

You should find this information in the front or back of the book.

Or look for self-help books that have been recommended by a professional organisation, such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Reading Well books on prescription

You can find books for common mental health problems like anxiety and depression on the Reading Well books on prescription website.

These books are all recommended by NHS health professionals and people living with the health problems covered in the books.

Reading Well books are available free from your local library.

Self-help books from Overcoming

The Overcoming website offers books, plus content you can download and apps covering more than 30 common mental health problems like anxiety, low self-esteem and grief.

Some of its titles are recommended by Reading Well.

The books are available from bookshops, libraries and online stores.

Blogs, forums, videos and audio guides

Side by Side forum at Mind: a safe, supportive online community

Blogs and stories at Mind: people share their struggles with mental health

Relaxation video by Mind on YouTube: 8 relaxation tips

NHS audio guides: advice on anxiety, depression and more

Audio: Low confidence and assertiveness

In this audio guide, a doctor gives you tips to help build your confidence.

Media last reviewed: 2 March 2021
Media review due: 2 March 2024

Page last reviewed: 11 February 2022
Next review due: 11 February 2025