Talking therapy as a form of treatment for mental health illnesses

April 6, 2022
5 minute read

Talk therapy is a form of communication that can help you process and understand your thoughts and feelings. It allows you to express and discuss any concerns you might have with a trained professional who is non-biased and won’t judge you.

According to NHS England, mental health problems affect around 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children in England, and many other people know and care for someone who is affected.

What is talking therapy?

Talking therapy is an effective form of treatment for mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and depression. However, it can also benefit those looking to maintain a positive outlook and state of wellbeing. You can access some talking therapies, also known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), for free on the NHS.

Talking therapies involve speaking with a trained therapist either as a one-to-one session, in a group setting, self-guided using a self-help workbook, online video chat, phone call or with a family member or partner alongside you.

Types of talking therapy

There are lots of different types of talking therapies used for different components of mental health such as seeking help, learning to cope, or getting on the road to recovery. All of the different types of therapies may particularly suit someone better over another.

A few examples of talking therapies include:

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT helps you understand yourself better by learning and exploring how your thoughts and beliefs affect your feelings and behaviours. It helps you explore how you think about your life and how you react to your thoughts.

During the course of the therapy, you will set goals in each session with your therapist, with tasks to carry out in between, that are designed to help change certain behaviours and unhelpful thought patterns. For example, you may be asked to challenge negative thoughts, keeping a diary or trying a new activity, or practising some of the skills you’ve learned in a session to help you start to feel a bit better.

CBT therapy is a structured approached, typically including 5 to 20 sessions, each lasting 30-60 minutes.

It has been shown to help with a variety of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and some types of eating disorders such as bulimia.

Find out more about how CBT works by visiting the NHS website.

Guided self-help

This type of therapy is a psychological therapy that you can do in your own time. It provides you with the tools and techniques you can use to help yourself make positive changes in your life.

Guided self-help is carried out with a CBT-based self-help workbook or online course, alongside and with the support of a therapist. The therapist works with you either with appointments either face-to-face, online or via phone call.  

The tools and techniques you learn in this type of therapy are designed to help you carry these on after you finish the course of the therapy so you can go back to them without the requirement of a therapist.

Guided self-help is recommended to help overcome common problems such as anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and some types of depression.

Find out more about self-help therapies.


Counselling is a confidential talking therapy where you talk in private to a trained therapist to help you deal with difficulties in your life.

Counselling may involve a one-off session or a course of sessions over a period of weeks or months.

Counselling can be used as an effective treatment for some types of depression, fertility problems, or a bereavement or life event you are struggling to cope with. Usually, counselling is offered to treat mild to moderate depression where guided self-help or other therapies have been tried and were not suitable for the person.

Find out more about counselling services and what to expect.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

MBCT helps you focus on your thoughts and feelings as the happen in the moment. It is based on a combination of meditation, breathing exercises with cognitive therapy to help you learn how your thoughts make you feel and how to better manage them.

MBCT can be used to help prevent depression returning and to help with anxiety and stress.

Read our introduction to mindfulness blog for more information.

Who it benefits

Talking therapy is available to everyone. Although it is offered on the NHS, there can often be waiting lists and some people may choose to go privately. Talking therapy can be beneficial for everyone to speak to someone in a safe environment without feeling judged. It’s a common misconception that therapy is only useful if you have experienced significant trauma in your life. However, that is not always the case.  Qualified therapists can help you develop coping strategies and mechanisms for dealing with any life situations or emotions or feelings.

Here are some examples of different groups of people who could benefit from talking therapy:


Family therapy involves the whole family and can be helpful for children whose parents are splitting up or if a family member has an eating disorder, addiction or mental health condition.


Talking therapy works just as well for children as it does for adults and can be beneficial for children with anxiety, depression or who are in physical pain much of the time.


Couples therapy can be done either as a couple or individually. Couples therapy can be an excellent way of discussing relationship issues, how to better communicate and can also be beneficial in helping to cope with separation and divorce.

Over 65s

Talking therapy can benefit older people to help them enjoy life and prevent depression, often wrongly dismissed as normal for this age category.

This is not an exclusive list and many other groups of people and individuals can benefit from talking therapy.

To find out more about the benefits of talking therapy, visit the NHS website or contact our pharmacy team.

Content last reviewed on:
April 6, 2022
Next review date:
April 6, 2024
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