What is psychotherapy?

Anyone can benefit from psychotherapy. Talking to a trained professional can help you to explore your concerns, thoughts and feelings and improve your mental health.

You may feel that what you’re experiencing isn’t serious enough to get help or feel unsure about the kind of support psychotherapy can offer. But anyone can benefit from becoming more aware of how they see the world and why.

Sometimes ‘psychotherapy’ and ‘psychotherapeutic counselling’, are called ‘talking therapies’. For the most part, this is because they involve talking about an emotional difficulty with a trained therapist. That might be anything from grief to anxiety, relationship difficulties to addiction.

Our psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors are trained to help you express your thoughts and feelings and explore what comes up when you do. They listen and provide a non-judgmental space so you can feel heard and understood.

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What can psychotherapy help with?

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:

  • anxiety
  • feeling like you can’t cope
  • problems dealing with stress or recovering from stressful situations
  • lack of confidence or extreme shyness
  • coping with the effects of abuse
  • feelings of depression, sadness, grief or emptiness
  • extreme mood swings
  • difficulty making or sustaining relationships, or repeatedly becoming involved in unsatisfying or destructive relationships
  • sexual problems
  • difficulties coming to terms with losses such as bereavement, divorce or unemployment
  • eating disorders
  • self-harm
  • obsessive behaviour
  • panic attacks and phobias.


How will psychotherapy help me?

Psychotherapy recognises the lasting impact of trauma. This is when stressful events that you experience or witness make you feel unsafe, helpless or vulnerable. You’ll work with a therapist to think about what has happened to you, not what is wrong with you. The focus is on compassion listening and understanding rather than making a diagnosis.

Psychotherapy can be a powerful, life-changing experience which can help you to improve your mental health, overcome social or emotional challenges, and fulfil your potential. A trained psychotherapist can support you to:

  • express your feelings and process them in a safe and supportive relationship
  • gain deeper insight into the issues you face
  • talk about things in a confidential environment that you might not feel be able to discuss with anyone else
  • find better ways to cope with feelings and fears
  • change the way you think and behave to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing
  • improve relationships in your life, including with yourself
  • make sense of any clinical diagnoses you have had by understanding what has happened to you
  • heal from trauma
  • learn to communicate better and tolerate differences in yourself and others.


What types of therapy are there?

As well as talking, therapy can use a range of methods including art, music, drama and movement. Each has different benefits, but research shows the relationship between you and your psychotherapist is the most important thing in overcoming the challenges that bring you to therapy.

There are also lots of different formats for psychotherapy. A therapist can provide one-to-one support, or work with you and a partner or family member, or in a group. You might see them in-person in their practice or home, or speak on the phone or via video chat online.


What happens in psychotherapy sessions?

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 and others will have specific exercises to do this. They won’t tell you what to do but will listen and may ask questions which can help you to see things in a new light.

This might feel difficult to begin with. But your therapist is there to support you to open up and guide the process. Together, you’ll look at the relationships with people in your life, as well as the one you have with each other and with yourself. You might find yourself crying, getting upset or angry. This can feel unsettling and intense but your therapist is trained to help you process and cope with the emotions that come up.


How long has psychotherapy been around for?

Psychotherapeutic practices existed in many cultures around the world long before the development of a more scientific approach to healing the mind was developed in Europe in the nineteenth century. 

German philosopher Wilhelm Wundt opened the first laboratory devoted to scientific psychology in 1879. Within a decade, Sigmund Freud began using hypnosis and talking therapy for people with nervous and brain disorders. 

Throughout the twentieth century, thanks to the work of practitioners and researchers including Carl Jung, Melanie Klein, Carl Rogers, John Bowlby and many more, psychotherapy developed in many different directions. Numerous new types of therapy and psychotherapeutic modalities were explored.

Today, our members use many different approaches which have been influenced by the history of the profession and those who have contributed to it

Psychotherapy has deeply influenced education, politics, business, the arts, and other areas of public life. The questions it poses and insights it offers into our thoughts, emotions, memories, and identities are as relevant today as they have ever been.


How do I find a UKCP psychotherapist?

UKCP psychotherapists are highly trained, meet rigorous standards, and abide by our ethical code. They can provide a safe space for you to process what you are facing right now.

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More questions? Psychotherapy FAQs

Read our frequently asked questions about psychotherapy to find out more about what it is, how it works, and what to expect.

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