Psychotherapy FAQs

Your therapy questions answered

You’re bound to have lots of questions if you’re thinking about seeing a psychotherapist for the first time. You might find answers to some of them below.

Psychotherapy offers a non-judgmental, confidential and safe space for you to reflect on any emotional difficulties with a trained therapist.

Our psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors are trained to help you express your thoughts and feelings and explore what comes up when you do.

Find out more on our What is psychotherapy? page.

All psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors are equipped to support you with emotional distress. But there are many different types of psychotherapy and different theories and approaches which qualified therapists specialise in. You certainly don’t need to understand them all but it can be useful to think about which type might suit you best.

Find out what’s on offer on our Types of psychotherapy page.

Many psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors work with individual adults but may also work with couples, families and groups or work with children and young people.

You don’t need to be in crisis or have a diagnosed mental illness to have psychotherapy. It can help you with emotional or mental health problems, including everything from anxiety to grief, addiction to sexual problems. It can help you to achieve a specific goal or overcome a challenge. Psychotherapy can help you understand yourself better and fulfil your potential.

Find out more on our What is psychotherapy? page

It’s different for everyone. Therapy is a safe place to let your feelings out and share what’s on your mind. It can be a relief to talk about something that has been upsetting you. When someone who understands really listens to you, without judgement, it can be very powerful. Feeling heard, seen and understood can be very moving. You might find yourself crying, getting upset or angry in therapy or between your sessions. This can feel unsettling and intense but your therapist is trained to help you process and cope with the emotions that come up.

Find out more on our What is psychotherapy? page

Yes. In addition to the personal testimonies of millions of people around the world who have been helped by psychotherapy, there is a large body of evidence to show that psychotherapy is effective in addressing most mental health issues, including including depression, anxiety, substance use problems, and what are often diagnosed as 'personality disorders'. 

Find out more about the evidence supporting psychotherapy.

The idea is for you to have the opportunity to explore the issue or concern you want to work on with your therapist. Different therapists will support you to do this in different ways. Some will support you to talk generally about your feelings, behaviours and thoughts. Others will have specific exercises to help you do this.

Find out more about how psychotherapy works.

They will listen, and ask questions, but won’t tell you what to do. This might feel difficult to begin with. But your therapist is there to support you to open up and guide the process. Sometimes just talking about your problems will help you see them in a different light and bring up new ideas you may not have considered.

Find out more on our What is psychotherapy? page

It varies depending on location, training and experience. Psychotherapists will normally state their fees on their UKCP Find A Therapist profile. If not, ask the therapist how much they charge for sessions when you contact them.

Sessions may have lower fees in the daytime than in the evening and therapists may offer discounts for people on low incomes and for psychotherapy students.

One-to-one sessions are typically 50 minutes long but can be up to an hour. Group sessions can be longer than this. Sometimes sessions are shorter, lasting 30 or 20 minutes.

Most often, people see a therapist once a week, at the same time. But it can be more or less frequent than this. It depends what you agree with your therapist and how they work.

Psychotherapy can be short or long term. The number of sessions you have will depend on you, your therapist, the type of therapy and depth and complexity of the issues you want to work on. It’s unusual for therapy to last for less than six sessions. Some may continue for two years or more.

Find out more on our What is psychotherapy? page

UKCP psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors commit to our Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. It provides boundaries for you and your psychotherapist which are important in building a professional, trusting relationship.

Therapists on our register are committed to good practice, ethical conduct, and learning and development. The register is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, adding another layer of assurance.

Find out more about our psychotherapy code of conduct.

Yes, you can. A lot of psychotherapists work online or over the phone. They might state this on their UKCP Find A Therapist profile you could check if they do when you contact them. Regardless of how the therapy is delivered, UKCP psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors are committed to adhering to the UKCP Code of Ethics.

Find out more about online or telephone psychotherapy.

First, search Find A Therapist for qualified UKCP psychotherapists. When you’ve found a potential therapist, send them an email or give them a call. Organise a first session to see how you feel being with the therapist.

Many people don’t find the right therapist first time. If that happens, don’t worry, you can book an initial appointment with another therapist to try again.

Find out more about How to choose a psychotherapist.

The first session is a chance to get a sense of how the therapist works. They will probably ask you to talk more about what brings you to therapy and might have an assessment form which they fill in on your behalf. This helps assess if they are the right person to help you. They might ask about the history of the issue you want to work on, your past and family, and what helps you cope.

You can ask questions to help you decide whether you want to work with the person.

Find out more about How to choose a psychotherapist.

Talk to your therapist when you want to stop working with them. You can think about whether it’s the right time to end and plan how and when to stop. It’s best not to stop abruptly, if that’s possible. Sometimes therapy can make you feel very unsettled and this can be difficult to cope with. You can speak to your therapist about this as it happens so that they can support you.   

It varies. Generally, if you need an appointment early in the morning, up to 9pm, or on a Saturday, you should be able to find an available psychotherapist who works then. Often, therapists include their availability in their profile on Find A Therapist.  Or you can ask them about it when you first contact them by phone or email.

Therapists won’t usually be available to talk to you outside your agreed session time.

Search Find A Therapist and you can feel confident that all the therapists you find are fully qualified and committed to good practice, ethical conduct, and learning and development.

Yes, a psychotherapist will keep what you say confidential and should be able to let you know the legal and ethical limits to this.

Find out more about our code of ethics.

The way psychotherapists and counsellors work can overlap. Both use talking therapy to help someone tackle an emotional difficulty. But the training for each is different.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are different. Psychiatrists are medical doctors that diagnose illness, prescribe medication, manage treatment and provide a range of therapies for serious mental illness.

Psychologists have a degree in psychology and work in schools, hospitals, care homes, prisons, as well as private practice. They work to understand people’s behaviour and address psychological distress. One way to think about it is that psychology is the study of the mind, and psychotherapy is about applying insights from psychology to help people.

A psychotherapist may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional who has done more training in psychotherapy.

If you’re looking for a therapist for a child or young person you can try searching our specialist register of trained child and family psychotherapists.

Find out more about Psychotherapy for children and young people.

Call 999 or go to your local accident and emergency department if someone's life is at risk – for example, they have seriously injured themselves or taken an overdose. Or if you don’t feel you can keep yourself or someone else safe.

You can find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline here. Or try calling 111 and asking for an urgent GP appointment.

You could also contact the Samaritans, a charity which offers a free confidential listening service run by volunteers to anyone in distress 24 hours a day. Call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

If it feels okay to do so, you could try talking the person you’re working with. This would give them a chance to put things right

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the therapist about your concerns, you can contact us. We will listen to you and take your complaint seriously.

Find out more about how to make a complaint.

You can access some therapies through the NHS, either through your GP or directly with an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT). However, there can be long waiting lists and less choice. The most common form of therapy offered by these services is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). While CBT can be very effective for some people and some situations, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

UKCP is campaigning for the NHS to offer a wider range of talking therapies and employ more psychotherapists. This would increase the likelihood that you find the right therapist and that the therapy is successful.

Discover more about our campaigning work.

Find a therapist near you