You may be able to get free services through the NHS, from where you work or study, or through charities and voluntary services. Here you may have little choice of therapist or type of therapy, and there may be a long waiting list for your first appointment.

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

Where you can access therapy


Your GP can help you decide what type of therapy may be best for you and will know what is available locally. They will 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. You can look for services in your area on the NHS Service Finder.

There will often be a long waiting list for your first appointment.

At work

Your employer may offer a confidential Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or can 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 a free and confidential in-house counselling service. You can usually find out what they offer and how to make an appointment through the counselling service section of 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 covering a variety of issues. The services available in your area will depend on where you live. See our useful links or search the internet for other services.

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.

There are several online directories of private therapists, including our therapist directory.

This is a paid-for directory where BACP members can advertise their services. All therapists listed will be registered members, which ensures they are qualified, professional and ethical practitioners. Please see the advice below before choosing a private therapist.

How you can access therapy

You may meet with your 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. The location should always provide a private, quiet and safe place where you can talk in confidence and without any interruptions.

Increasingly, you can also receive therapy over the telephone or through online e-counselling using Skype or 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. Or you may prefer to have counselling over the telephone or online from your own home.

If you don’t speak English
If English is not your first language and you would prefer to have therapy in a different language, ask if this is possible. Some practitioners are multi-lingual or services may be able to arrange an interpreter.

If you are looking for a private practitioner, you can use our therapist directory to search for a therapist who speaks your preferred language.


Choosing a therapist

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

Ask about the time, place and duration of your sessions. If you are paying for your therapy, make sure you understand the costs and any charges for missed appointments and holidays.

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

This will help you to get a better idea of what is involved and decide whether this is a person you can work with.

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

For further information, see:

Introduction to counselling and psychotherapy (pdf 0.1MB)

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