Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get counselling through the NHS, from where you work or study, or through charities and voluntary services. These services are often free, but you may have little choice of therapist or type of therapy. You may have to wait a long time for your first appointment, and you may only get a limited number of sessions.

Or you can find a private practitioner. You will have a wider choice and should be able to see someone quickly and for longer, but you will have to pay for their services.

Where you can access therapy


Speak to your GP. They can help you decide what type of therapy may be best for you. They will know what is available locally and may be able to refer you to an NHS or other local service.

The NHS provides free talking therapies in some areas under the IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme. Some of these services also have a self-referral option.

There can often be long waiting lists for NHS services.

At work

Your employer may offer a confidential Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or be able to refer you through an occupational health service. These programmes are designed to help employees with personal or work-related problems that may be having an impact on their job performance, health and mental wellbeing.

In education

Many colleges and universities have free and confidential in-house counselling services. You can usually find out what they offer and how to make an appointment through your university's website.

Some schools also offer counselling services. Speak with a teacher or the Head if you feel your child needs therapy. If the school has a school-based counsellor, your child can approach the counsellor themselves.

Charities and voluntary services

Some voluntary or community organisations and charities offer free or affordable access to talking therapies. The services available locally depend on where you live.

Our Accredited Services directory lists organisational members that we’ve assessed as providing ethical and professional counselling or psychotherapy services. Or see our useful links for other organisations.

Private therapists

Private therapists' charges can vary greatly, costing anything from £35 an hour and more depending on where you live. Some may offer a free initial assessment and possibly reduced costs for people on low income.

Anyone can call themselves a counsellor and set up in private practice so it's important to find a therapist who is registered with a professional body - such as BACP. That means you know they're fully qualified and work to set professional standards and ethics. And in the rare event that you're unhappy with your therapy, there is a formal complaints process. 

The BACP Therapist Directory is an online directory where our members can pay to advertise their services. All therapists listed are registered members, which give you assurance that they are qualified, professional and ethical practitioners.

You can also find other directories and private therapists advertising on the internet or locally.

How you can receive therapy

You may meet with a therapist face-to-face, either on your own or in a group with your family, friends, colleagues or people with similar issues.

Your sessions may take place in a surgery or clinic, in therapy rooms or in community services. If you see a private practitioner, you may go to their home or office. Some therapists also offer therapy outdoors. The location should always provide a private, quiet and safe place where you can talk in confidence and without any interruptions.

Many counsellors now offer online or phone counselling which can be a flexible and accessible option. You can receive counselling in your own home or convenient location, through video platforms, over the phone or even by email.

If you have a disability

Disability should not make a difference to accessing therapy. Some therapists offer accessible facilities for disabled clients and can arrange adjustments such as the use of British Sign Language (BSL), signers or interpreters.

If you don’t speak English

If English is not your first language, you can ask if it's possible to have a therapist who speaks your preferred language, or services may be able to arrange for an interpreter.

If you're looking for a private therapist, many directories allow you to search for therapists by the languages they speak.

Choosing a therapist

Make sure you are clear about what you want and what the practitioner is able to offer.

Find out about your therapist’s professional memberships, experience and qualifications, and ask them to explain what they mean.

Ask about their way of working. There are many different types of therapy and therapists may be trained in one approach or use techniques from different methods if they think these would help.

Check on the time, place and duration of your sessions. If you’re paying for your therapy, make sure you understand the costs and any charges for missed appointments and holidays.

This will give you a better idea of what is involved and help you decide whether this is a person you can work with. Your relationship with your therapist is usually the most important factor in the success of your therapy.

If you’re receiving therapy through the NHS or another free service, you may not be able to choose your therapist or type of therapy. But you can still ask these questions to ensure you’re happy about the service you will receive. Tell your therapist if there is anything you do not understand or are uncomfortable with.

For further information, see:

Introduction to counselling and psychotherapy (pdf 0.1MB)

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