Talking therapies

What are psychological therapies?

Psychological therapies (talking therapies, therapy, psychology, counselling, psychotherapy, group therapy) are therapies that can be done with just you, as part of a group or with you and your family. Lots of people have therapy at some point either through the NHS, through a charity organisation or private therapist. It’s very different from ‘just talking’ it’s more like detective work where you and the therapist work together to see what the problems are, where they came from and how to get through them.

I saw my therapist every week; he’s amazing and we talked about everything since I was about 11. and you can have a laugh with him which is good.

Liam, 18 years, 

There are many types of therapy, you can download a Guide to the many different types of therapy to compare them.

Therapies do...

Therapies do not...

What is psychology?

But how does talking help?

What is a psychological assessment?

What happens in therapy?

Where do I find a therapist?

Therapies do:

  • Work for people with all kinds of difficulties
  • Involve talking and working together with a qualified psychologist or practitioner and building a ‘therapeutic relationship’
  • Involve identifying thoughts and behaviours that are helpful and unhelpful in your life
  • Aim to increase your understanding, coping and resilience
  • Leave you with a sense of control and achievement in overcoming your difficulties

Therapies do not:

  • Involve medication (although you might take this as well as having therapy),
  • Involve hypnosis, ‘mind-reading’ or lying on a couch talking about dreams
  • Feel the same as just talking to your friends
  • Work for everyone (but do work for lots of people)

What is psychology?


Psychology is the science of our mind and behaviour; how we think and act in life, what influences our thoughts, our emotions and our social behaviour. If you are having therapy this may be with a clinical psychologist, counsellor, psychological wellbeing practitioner or psychotherapist. They are all specialists who have trained in therapeutic techniques for several years and although they may take slightly different approaches they will all use psychological techniques. Psychological approaches look at you as an individual and the different things that could be having an impact on you right now.

But how does talking help?

Talking in therapy is very different from talking normally to people. It’s a special kind of talking that you might not experience anywhere else and is different in several ways, for example:

  • It’s all about you. Normally, if you’re talking to a friend you will probably take turns in asking about each other’s live but in therapy the focus is on your life and you won’t hear anything about the therapist.
  • It’s not a catch up. Talking in therapy isn’t just chatter. The therapist will be actively listening to everything you say whilst formulating ideas in his / her head and asking you questions. The therapist will help to guide you to important topics and discussion around these should, over time, provide you with some answers.
  • It should help you get to a calmer place. Over time your sessions should have brought about helpful information, helped you to understand your problems better and helped you cope with them more effectively.
  • It works if you commit to it. Therapy can be very helpful but it does require a commitment from you. You have to agree to attend regular weekly appointments and be prepared to talk honestly about things which may have caused you distress.
  • Psychological therapy is very helpful with a range of mental health and wellbeing problems. It can give you a sense of achievement because you are actively involved in bringing about that change yourself and you may feel a sense of control over your life as a result.

What is a psychological assessment?

Consultation between clinician and patient DK and PP at Barberry Photo SADuring an assessment you meet with a practitioner and talk about your difficulties. This might include how you feel in yourself, how you feel you are coping with things and what factors are affecting your life.

You may be asked about your history and may also be asked to complete some assessment measures. The usual outcome of the assessment is for you both to agree if therapy could help you and suits your needs and if so, to agree a plan of what type of therapy would be best.

What happens in therapy?

In therapy you have the time to talk about what is troubling you in detail, to explain why your difficulties started and to help you understand them better which will help you to cope better in the future. There are several different types of ‘talking’ therapies, and each of them may differ in how well they manage different problems. In this section we explain the following kinds of therapy:

  1. Cognitive Analytic Therapy
  2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  3. Counselling
  4. Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
  5. EMDR
  6. Family Therapy
  7. Interpersonal Therapy
  8. Motivational Counselling/ Interviewing
  9. Psychoanalytic & Psychodynamic Therapy

You can download a Therapy quick guide to compare them. This part of the site aims to explain the different types of psychological therapy available. The type of therapy you receive will be based on your own needs and situation.

Where do I find a therapist?


Psychological therapy is effective and is available through the NHS for a range of problems. However, because of NHS funding there is often a waiting list for qualified therapists. If you want to try this type of therapy you can ask your GP for a referral and ask about the waiting list time (if there is a wait they often offer you other support in the meantime such as self-help or medication). Find therapy in Birmingham and Solihull.


Charitable organisations also offer counselling for free or low-cost in many areas of the UK so check out our map or ask your GP what they know of. 


There are also many private therapists available who you can contact directly (and usually cost anywhere from £20-£40 or more); make sure you find someone who is qualified and recognised professionally as a psychologist.