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Psychological therapies

Last updated Thursday, 17th Mar 2016

Talking through your concerns and worries is known to help people manage with the everyday pressures and stresses that life brings them. This section looks at different types of psychological therapies, including talking treatments and explains how you can get this kind of help where you live.

What are psychological therapies?

Psychological therapies include a range of counselling and behavioural therapies. These therapies or treatments can help you overcome:

  • stress
  • emotional problems
  • relationship problems
  • troublesome habits
  • problems, such as hearing voices.

The person carrying out the treatment is usually called a therapist, while the person being treated is called the patient or client.

Most psychological therapies can be done one-to-one or in groups. Some can now be done using a computer and online via the internet. You can also work through some treatments using self-help books.

‘Talking things through with my counsellor made me start to feel a sense of hope about the future – very gradually the weight I had been feeling started to feel lighter.’

Types of treatments

 There are many types of treatments. Some are described here.

Cognitive and behavioural therapies

These therapies are based on the way you think (cognitive) and/or the way you behave. They recognise that it is possible to change, or recondition, our thoughts or behaviour to overcome specific problems. Examples of cognitive and behavioural therapies include cognitive analytical therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behavioural therapy.

Cognitive analytical therapy (CAT)

With cognitive analytical therapy, the therapist and the client focus on working out how problems developed and how the ways devised to cope with them may be ineffective. Problems are looked at in the light of personal histories and life experiences. The therapist and the client work together. They come up with plans to help the client change how they deal with things that happen. The therapy usually takes between four to 20 sessions. The Association for Cognitive Analytical Therapy has more information. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy can help you to change how you think (‘cognitive’) and what you do (‘behaviour’). These changes can help you to feel better. It focuses on the present problems and difficulties. Instead of focussing on the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past, it looks for ways to improve your state of mind now. It has been shown to help people with anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, bulimia, depression, phobias and stress.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests that CBT may also help if you have difficulties with anger, a low opinion of yourself or physical health problems, like pain or fatigue. The British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies keeps a register of accredited therapists.

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavioural therapy combines some elements of cognitive behavioural therapy with other therapies which include meditation techniques. It involves individual therapy and group therapy. It has been shown to be effective for people with persistent binge eating disorder and people with personality disorders who self-harm.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a psychological treatment. It is a way of stimulating the brain through eye movements which seems to make distressing memories feel less intense. It is used for a range of traumas, including past sexual, physical or emotional abuse, accidents and injuries, phobias and addictions. More information can be found at the EMDR Association including a list of registered therapists in the UK and Ireland.

Humanistic therapies

Humanistic therapies focus on self-development, growth and responsibilities. They seek to help people recognise their strengths, creativity and choice in the 'here and now'. These therapies explore your relationship with different parts of yourself (such as your body, mind, emotions, behaviour and spirituality) and other people (for example family, friends, society or culture) and support you to grow and live life to the full. Examples of humanistic therapy include person-centred counselling, gestalt therapy and transactional analysis.

Psychodynamic therapies

Psychodynamic therapies help you to explore how your personality and early life experiences influence your current thoughts, feelings, relationships and behaviour. Once you have this extra understanding, you can practise more skilful ways of dealing with difficult situations. Examples of psychodynamic therapies include psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, analytical psychology, Jungian or Freudian analysis and focal psychodynamic therapy.

Family and relationship therapies

Family and relationship therapies are helpful for people who want to sort out problems in their relationships with their partner or within their family. In relationship counselling or therapy, one or sometimes two therapists meet with the couple so that they can work on their problems together.

In family therapy, the family is asked to come to sessions that are led by one or two therapists. These sessions are often observed by other therapists or recorded. This can help the therapists and family members to reflect on what has happened during the discussion. Systemic psychotherapy works with a family's strengths to help family members think about and try different ways of behaving with each other. More information about family and relationship counselling can be found at Relate, a national charity which provides relationship counselling, family counselling and other therapies across the UK.

More information about psychological therapies is available on the following websites:

  • Mental Health Foundation
  • Mind 
  • Rethink 
  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists

How can I get help?

You can receive help with psychological therapies through the NHS free of charge, or you can pay to receive a service by ‘going private’. Some voluntary organisations offer counselling at a reduced or discounted rate.

Free help through the NHS

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme (IAPT)

In England the government has launched a national programme to increase the availability of psychological therapies for adults with mental health needs. This programme is called the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme (IAPT). The aim is to provide people who are experiencing depression or anxiety problems with psychological therapy for a brief period when they first start to experience a problem. It is hoped that this will avoid or limit the need for medication, time off work or unemployment.

At present, IAPT services focus on the provision of cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling in addition to information, advice and signposting to other services and sources of support.

The provision of these kinds of therapies is in line with guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). NICE is the organisation responsible for providing national guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health.

The programme was trialled in a number of places across the UK. More than 70% of people who were supported reported an improvement in their mental health. The results included:

  • better health and wellbeing
  • high levels of satisfaction with the service received
  • more choice and better access to appropriate services
  • more people staying employed and able to participate in their everyday activities.

Who provides IAPT services?

In Kent and Medway, three organisations provide IAPT services. These are Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT), ThinkAction (formerly KCA) and Counselling Team Ltd.

How can I get help from an IAPT service?

Your GP can refer you to these services. In some areas you can ‘self-refer’. This means that you can contact the provider directly and seek an appointment to see someone. It is hoped that more services will accept self-referrals as the services develop and grow in size.

What can you expect when referred to an IAPT service?

If you are referred you will be assessed and offered the type of support that seems most suitable for your needs. IAPT services provide advice, information and signposting and therapy. You will be offered information and, depending on your needs, should be offered therapy. Therapy is available via the computer (computerised cognitive behavioural therapy also known as CCBT), over the phone, in group sessions or face to face, in GP surgeries or in local centres. You may be offered up to six or up to 20 treatment sessions.

Where are the IAPT services?


ThinkAction - 171 Beaver Road, Ashford, Kent, TN23 7SG

Tel: 0300 012 0012

For further information regarding this service, please click here

Canterbury and Coastal

ThinkAction- 34 Simmonds Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 3RA

Tel: 0300 012 0012

For further information regarding this service, please click here

Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley

KMPT Primary Care Psychological Therapy Service 17 High Street, Swanley, Kent, BR8 8AE

Tel: 01322 669899
Fax: 01322 667274
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm
Referral: Through your GP

Dover and Deal

KMPT Primary Care Psychological Therapy Service, Coleman House Brookfield Avenue, Dover, Kent, CT16 2AH

Tel: 01304 216692
Fax: 01304 216677
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm
Referral: Through your GP


PTP Medway 248a High Street, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4AN (Above William Hill, opposite Batchelor Street)

Tel: 01634 406087
Fax: 01634 202428
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm
Referral: Through your GP or self-refer


KMPT Primary Care Psychological Therapy ServiceThe Courtyard, Pudding Lane, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1PA

Tel: 01622 776355
Fax: 01622 776369
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm
Referral: Through your GP


Counselling Team LtdFirst Floor Offices, 6-8 Bank St, Hythe, Kent, CT21 5AN

Tel: 0845 456 8972
Fax: 0845 456 8973
Counselling Team Ltd can also see clients at its Folkestone office or at various GP surgeries within the Shepway locality.
Opening hours:
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9am – 8pm,
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9am – 5pm
Referral: Through your GP

South West Kent

KMPT Primary Care Psychological Therapy ServiceSpa House, 18 Upper Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 2ET

Tel: 01892 524996
Fax: 01892 525569
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm
Referral: Through your GP


ThinkAction - Pender House, Whitewall Road, Rochester, Kent, ME2 4EW

Tel: 01634 298 598

For further information regarding this service, please click here


ThinkAction -  1 Cecil Street, Margate, Kent, CT9 1NX

Tel: 01843 293 844

For further information regarding this service, please click here

Going private

There are many therapists and counsellors who will provide you with therapy or counselling services for payment.

Finding a therapist or counsellor

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) holds a register of accredited or registered counsellors and therapists. 

For more information about accreditation and registration, go to the accreditation pages of the BACP website.

For more guidance on what to consider when choosing a therapist go the finding the right therapist pages of the BACP website.

The BACP Client Information Helpdesk will help you find a suitable counsellor with whom you feel comfortable, in your particular area. They seek to remove the anxiety that may be associated with choosing a counsellor and are happy to discuss any queries or concerns which may arise whilst choosing a counsellor or during the counselling process.

BACP Client Information Helpdesk: 01455 883316

Counselling directory

Counselling directory is a website which helps people find a counsellor close to them who is appropriate to their needs. The service is free and confidential. Every counsellor profiled on the site has either sent a copy of their qualifications and insurance cover to Counselling directory or is regsitered with a professional body. The website also contains a number of sections on emotional disorders.

The following organisations also have registers of therapists which you can search via their websites:

  • Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy
  • British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies
  • British Association of Psychotherapists
  • British Psychoanalytic Council
  • Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals (FDAP)
  • National Register of Hypnotherapists and Psychotherapists
  • United Kingdom Association for Humanistic Psychology Practitioners Ltd (UKAHPP)
  • UK Council for Psychotherapy

Voluntary organisations

Some voluntary organisations and charities provide counselling services in Kent and Medway. Our Helpful organisations database has more details.

Books that can help

There are many books available which use cognitive behavioural therapy and other therapeutic techniques to help people work through their issues and come up with strategies to help improve their wellbeing. You'll find several in our Useful books list and on our Books and computers page.

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