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Talking helps

If you’ve not been feeling yourself lately, there’s support available that could help. Talking is often the best way to start feeling better. It’s never too late to begin.  

What are talking therapies?

Your mental health is very important – particularly because how you’re feeling mentally can have a big impact on how you feel physically. If you’re finding things tough and it’s affecting your mood and how you feel, then speaking to your GP is a good place to start.

Talking about your mental health can be daunting, but your GP will be used to having these conversations and won't judge you. They're there to help and will know what to do.

There’s something called 'talking therapies', which can start to help people who are feeling low, anxious or out of sorts. They involve talking to someone who's specially trained to help you manage your thoughts and feelings and the effect they have on our behaviour and mood.

You can usually refer yourself to a local service to see if you could benefit from treatment, or your doctor or nurse can do it for you if you'd prefer.

Find out more about self-referral on the NHS website

What are the different types?

There are different kinds of NHS Talking Therapies and there are types that can be delivered online, over the phone or in person. Once you've been referred, a healthcare professional will assess which therapy will be best for you. The most common are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and counselling – but there are some others too.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you by looking at and changing how you think and behave. It’s based on the idea that the way we feel is affected by our thoughts, beliefs and behaviour.
  • Counselling lets you talk about your problems and feelings in a safe environment. Counsellors are trained to listen and empathise. They won’t give you advice but will support and guide you to understand your problems and deal with negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Guided self-help involves a therapist coaching you to work through a self-help course in your own time, using a workbook or online course.
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy uses meditation to help treat depression and other mental health conditions.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) or dynamic interpersonal therapy (DIT) are therapies that look at the link between depression and your relationships.

Could talking therapies work for me?

Talking is often the best way to start feeling better. It's not always easy to open up about our feelings, but there's a lot of truth in the saying 'a problem shared is a problem halved.'

Talking therapies are proven to work – and they can work particularly well for older people. Even if you've tried them before and weren't sure, you can give talking therapies another go.

You don't need to have a diagnosed mental health condition to refer yourself to NHS Talking Therapies. If you're experiencing any of the following, then talking therapies could be for you:

  • feeling anxious, low or hopeless
  • worrying a lot or feeling stressed
  • finding it hard to cope with work, life or relationships
  • feeling fearful of social situations
  • having panic attacks
  • struggling with flashbacks or nightmares about upsetting events from your past
  • having obsessive thoughts or behaviours
  • dealing with phobias and fears
  • dealing with mental health conditions resulting from physical health conditions

Where can I find talking therapy services?

Talking therapies are free for anyone who needs them through the NHS. You can ask your GP about talking therapies or you may be able to refer yourself. You can also find local talking therapy services near you. 

Find your local NHS Talking Therapies service near you on the NHS website

What happens after I've been referred?

The process is not the same in every area, though it might be something like this:

  1. After you or your GP has referred you for talking therapies, you would normally answer some questions about the way you’ve been feeling. This could be on a website or over the phone. Sometimes they might ask about whether you’re feeling like ending your life, so don’t be surprised by this question.
  2. If your answers suggest you could benefit from some help, you might then get a phone call from your local talking therapies or wellbeing service, where they may talk through some of the questions again with you.
  3. They'll use this information to help decide what type of talking treatment you would benefit from the most and pass this on to the relevant team, who will organise your first appointment.

Going through this process won't always result in a course of talking therapies. There may also be gaps of days or weeks between these stages. However, the service should be focused on providing the support that's right for you and will make sure that you have somewhere to turn if your needs become more urgent.

What are the alternatives to therapy?

Applied relaxation

A trained practitioner can teach you muscle relaxation techniques to help you cope in situations where you feel anxious. This usually consists of 12-15 weekly one-hour sessions.


Your GP may prescribe medications to help treat the symptoms of depression. These are called antidepressants and there's a range of different types available. Antidepressants can be combined with talking therapies – your GP should explain which is best for you. It can take up to two weeks for medications to start having an effect. You may need to continue taking antidepressants for several months to ensure a long-term recovery.


Self-help groups can be a way to get support, share ideas on what helps, boost your mood and gain self-confidence. Meeting other people who understand what you’re going through can be helpful, especially if you’re feeling isolated or lonely.

Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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