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Learn more about how to get therapy through NHS

On this page you will learn more about how to get therapy through NHS.

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The NHS offers various forms of therapy with trained and accredited practitioners and any form of therapy offered through the NHS is free of charge. The therapies offered in the NHS range from one to one, group, online, couples and family therapy and make use of different approaches. There are two ways of accessing talking therapies in the NHS, these are either via GP referral or self-referral.

GP Referral

Once you set up an appointment with your GP and explain your symptoms, they can then refer you to the appropriate service for talking therapies depending on your presentation. Talking about your mental health with someone you may not know very well may be challenging especially when you aren’t feeling well. However, it is important that you provide enough information to your GP so that they can refer you to the most suitable service. Try being honest and open about your experience by focusing on how you are feeling and attempting to elaborate on how you have been feeling in the past weeks or months and whether anything has changed. Make use of language that feels normal to you and remember that your doctor is there to help you. Other things that may help if you are feeling anxious about your appointment are making sure you have enough time to travel to your appointment or if your appointment is over the phone or online making sure you have a safe space without distractions to have your appointment in. You could also write down what you would like to say prior to your appointment and have your notes close by during the appointment, or practice what you want to say to your GP with a family member or friend that you feel comfortable talking to about this. After your appointment your GP will refer you to the most suitable service, after which the service will contact you to set up an assessment appointment.


If you are based in England, you are also able to refer yourself directly to The Improving Access To Psychological Therapies programme which is also known as IAPT. You can find your nearest IAPT service by going through the NHS website and using the online IAPT service finder. If this proves difficult for you, you can always call your GP service that will be able to provide you with the contact details of your nearest IAPT service. You may be apprehensive about accessing help through the NHS because of the wait time. Unfortunately, it is common to spend time waiting for therapy through the NHS. However, you can ask your GP or the service how long the current wait period is as well as look for any alternatives. The NHS website offers an array of self-help resources that include tips, tools and guides aimed at improving your mental health. If you are above the age of 16 you can also take a depression and anxiety self-assessment quiz to better understand what may be going on for you. There are also tools for understanding your mental health and exercises to help you cope and to improve your mood. In the meantime, you may also want to look at local charities that may offer free or low-cost talking therapies or search whether there are therapists at your place of work or education. If you are in need of urgent help NHS England has an urgent health helpline that you can call for 24-hour advice and support for yourself or someone you care about that is struggling with their mental health. The number varies based on your location so please check the following link for the NHS website for further information. https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline

You should also call 999 or go to A&E immediately if someone’s life it at risk or if you feel you can’t keep yourself or someone else safe.

Updated: 2022-11-14

Author: Antigone Lanitis

Reviewed by: Marina Moran