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
- you want a therapy that's completely anonymous
If you do not feel better after trying a self-help therapy, there are other therapies you can try.
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 psychological therapies, including guided self-help, on the NHS.
You can refer yourself directly to an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT) 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.
Psychological therapies services are also known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services.
Apps and online tools for mental health
There are lots of apps and online tools you can use to help improve your mental health.
You can see a selection in the NHS apps library.
Some online tools for mental health are available on the NHS.
Research shows that, for some people, they can be just 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 via instant messaging.
You can also join an anonymous online community where you can meet and talk with other people who have similar mental health problems to you.
You do not need much experience with computers or technology to use them.
Am I eligible?
Whether or not 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 whether the NHS offers access to online tools for mental health in your area.
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 by people living with the health problems covered in the books.
Reading Well books are available free from your local library.
'Overcoming' self-help books
These books and CDs are recommended by Reading Well and cover more than 30 common mental health problems, including anxiety, low self-esteem and grief.
They're available from bookshops and libraries, or you can buy them from the Overcoming website.
Blogs, forums, videos and audio guides
Side by Side forum: a safe, supportive online community from Mind
Blogs and stories: from people who have struggled with their mental health
NHS audio guides: advice on anxiety, depression and more
Video: 8 relaxation tips from Mind
Audio: Low confidence and assertiveness
In this audio guide, a doctor gives you tips to help build your confidence.
Media review due: 2 March 2024