Recognising that you are in need of support is a big step. Often when we come to this realisation, we want to take action fast but find that it can become an overwhelming task. We don’t know what we don’t know and accessing therapy can be a challenge if you’re unsure practically how to do this or where to start. While an internet search is often a good starting point, it’s important to flag that ‘therapist’ isn’t a protected title which means, in theory, anyone can call themselves a therapist. Sadly, this can and does occur and there have been practices known to have been closed down as a result of this. This guide offers an outline of how to arrange therapy with someone who is appropriately skilled and qualified to support you.

How to Choose a Therapy

There are lots of different therapy modalities and this in itself can feel confusing.  The two most common and accessible forms of therapy are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Counselling, so these are the ones this guide will focus on.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT has been developed on the understanding that we all have different beliefs and behavioural patterns that influence the way we feel. Therefore, making changes to what we think and do can improve the way we feel. CBT helps you break down your difficulties  so that they become easier to address and manage. The therapy process involves you understanding your problems and what is maintaining them, then learning practical strategies and coping skills to manage them. The idea is that you build up a toolkit to help you continue maintaining progress independently, ling after you finish your therapy sessions.

The approach taken in CBT is largely goal-focused. You are supported to identify what you most want to gain from therapy and the sessions then help you take active steps towards achieving this. Whilst in CBT we acknowledges how past experiences have shaped the way you think and behave, the focus is on improving things in the present and the approach is more practical than exploratory. Sessions are generally well structured with a plan to help stay focused on your goals. There are agreed ‘homework’ tasks between sessions so that you can apply what you learn and build on this and typically, each session will build on the last.

CBT has a strong evidence-base for its effectiveness and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for common mental health problems. This includes depression, generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The number of sessions recommended can vary but is usually between 6 and 25 and they are scheduled weekly or fortnightly. Regular sessions and practicing the techniques you learn between these sessions is important in sustaining long term change and improvements.

For further information, have a read  of  What to Expect from CBT.


Counselling is a form of talking therapy that provides space for you to talk about your experiences and feelings and process this with the support of a counsellor. Your counsellor won’t offer advice or tell you what to do, but may ask questions that encourage you to reflect on your difficulties and support you to find your own solutions.

While CBT focuses on the here and now, and working towards a clear goal, counselling offers space for exploration. You may find this approach helpful if you want to make sense of experiences from your past, if you feel you are lacking direction about your future, or if you if you need general emotional support more so than a solution-focused approach.

Counselling can be helpful for people experiencing bereavement, relationship difficulties or illness. It is also something that may be helpful for couples or families to attend together where there are challenges within a relationship or family unit. You may wish to speak to a counsellor if you do not feel able to talk to your friends and family about how you are feeling.


How to Find a Therapist

There are a number of ways of accessing therapy. Here is an outline of some of the routes you may wish to look into.

Therapy Through the NHS

You can access therapies through your GP or by self-referral to your local NHS therapy service. Further information about this can be accessed through the NHS website.

As this service is provided by the NHS, you do not need to pay for therapy. The therapies offered may include online therapy, telephone consultations, group courses or face to face therapy. Waiting list times and the number of sessions offered can vary across services so it can be helpful to enquire about this to help inform the decision you make about the route through which you access therapy.

If you are unsure about whether therapies would be helpful for you or want to know about other treatments, including medication, you can speak with your GP for further advice.

Finding a Private Therapist

When looking for a therapist privately, it is important to ensure you find someone appropriately qualified. For CBT, the accrediting body is the British Association of Behavioural and Psychological Therapists (BABCP) and their therapist finder provides a professional register of qualified CBT therapists.

For counselling, the accrediting body is the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapists (BACP) and they also provide a register of counsellors.

Many therapists on these registers will include contact information or websites where you can find out more about them. If you find someone you think you’d like to work with, you may wish to contact them beforehand to speak with them informally or ask any questions you may have. Fees can vary considerably and are not always advertised. Counselling is generally charged at a lower rate than CBT which can range from around £60 – £150 per session.

Accessing Therapy Through Your Workplace or Education Setting

Many employers provide an Employee Assistance Programme that includes access to therapies without cost to you. They may also private medical insurance policies that include psychological therapies. All providers and policies vary, but it’s certainly worth knowing what your workplace offer. Information about this is usually available in your employment contract or starter pack, your workplace intranet, or via your HR department.

Universities and Higher Education Institutions often provide wellbeing support which may include therapies. If you are in education, it’s worth enquiring about this.

Charities that Offer Therapy

Affordability can sometimes  be a barrier to accessing therapy. There are a number of charities that offer therapies without charge or at discounted rates. You may be able to find out about such services by looking online or speaking with your GP about services in your local area. When doing so, it can be worth enquiring about the credentials of the therapists. Some may be run by trainee therapists. This isn’t necessarily a problem as trainee therapists are often well supervised and supported, however, you may have a preference for someone more experienced.

Online Therapy with Brighter Minds

Brighter Minds is a specialist CBT service and so this is the therapy approach we offer. All of our appointments are online which enables national coverage and the option for you to attend from the comfort of your home. To arrange an appointment or find our more, get in touch.


Updated March 24.