What type of therapy is right for me?

Brendan Street Brendan Street Professional Head, Emotional Wellbeing
If you’re thinking about therapy, a good place to start is to learn about the different types on offer. Brendan Street, Head of Emotional Wellbeing, explains how each kind of therapy works and how to decide which one best suits you and your current needs.

There are many different types of psychological therapies available and navigating through them can be confusing. You may have heard terms such as CBT, counselling, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and psychology.

‘Psychotherapy’ (or ‘talking therapy’) is actually the umbrella term that therapies such as CBT, counselling and psychoanalysis fall under. I’ll explain a bit more about each type and their similarities and differences, before helping you understand which might be best for you.

What types of therapies are there?

These are the main types available:

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) actively explores the links between your thoughts, feelings and actions. It helps you develop a toolkit of techniques to manage a range of difficulties, with the aim of equipping you to become your own therapist by the end of treatment.
  • Counselling aims to help you recognise your strengths, creativity and choices, while considering self-development, growth and responsibilities. The therapist allows you to explore these areas using the philosophy that they’re there to help you uncover your own truths and solutions
  • Psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies focus on the ‘unconscious’ (hidden from your awareness) or relationship patterns that evolved from childhood
  • Arts therapies use media such as painting, music and drama to encourage you to draw on your inner creative resources. It facilitates creative expression of your feelings, without always using words
  • Relationship therapy looks to resolve issues and improve communication within couples or other relationships. While they are usually attended by couples or all parties within a relationship, they can also be attended by individuals or a mixture of both.

What are the similarities between therapies? Therapy sessions are provided by a trained mental health professional, usually on a one-to-one basis, but can sometimes involve couples, families or groups. Sessions can be delivered face to face, or remotely via the phone or videoconferencing.

Therapy is completely confidential and provides a safe, empathic and non-judgmental space for you to discuss mental health concerns with a trained professional.

What’s the difference between CBT and counselling?

There is an overlap between the two – many of the techniques used in counselling will also be used in CBT. Both types of therapy give you an opportunity to talk in a safe environment to a non-judgemental and supportive person. And they both help you to better understand your problems and find strategies to help you solve them.

You might choose counselling over CBT when your problem is caused by something that can't be changed (for example a bereavement, or a long-term illness), or when you’re really unsure whether you need to make a change in your life (like a difficult relationship). In essence, counselling can help you adjust to difficult circumstances. It can also be helpful if you aren’t really sure what the problem is.

You might choose CBT instead of counselling when you’re working towards changing repeated patterns in your life, and you know what it is you’d like to change. It focuses on what you can do practically to change how you feel, or to change the impact your emotions have on your life. CBT is particularly useful as a treatment for anxiety, depression, and breaking vicious cycles, such as addictive behaviours.

What’s the difference between a psychologist and a CBT therapist?

The term ‘psychologist’ refers to a therapist's qualification, while ‘CBT therapist’ means the type of therapy they practice. The term ‘psychological therapist’ can be used to describe any individuals who deliver talking therapies.

Just to confuse things even more, a ‘CBT therapist’ can come from a range of backgrounds. They could also be a psychologist, a nurse, a social worker, or just a CBT therapist. Most CBT therapists tend to be accredited by the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP), indicating a high level of training and commitment to this particular type of therapy. Some psychological therapists might use aspects of CBT in their practice, but might not call themselves CBT therapists if this is not the main type of therapy they use.

Whereas a ‘psychologist’ has completed a degree and postgraduate qualification in psychology. They are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and have usually trained to a doctorate level or equivalent. There are two different types of psychologists: counselling psychologists usually specialise in counselling and psychodynamic psychotherapy, while clinical psychologists are trained to assess and treat people with a wide range of difficulties, but then tend to specialise in a particular area at the end of their general training. Both types of psychologists can also be CBT therapists.

Which therapy works best?

Many different types of therapy are effective, however there are a number of factors you should consider when thinking about them. Some approaches work better than others for different problems or concerns. You may also find that some are appeal to you more than others.

As we’ve seen, therapists are often trained in more than one approach, and there are areas where techniques used by the different approaches often overlap. Sometimes therapists integrate a number of approaches, or use a blend of different approaches depending on the person and type of support needed.

How do I work out which therapy I need?

It can be really useful to read around the different types of therapy available. It’s also a good idea to check out which therapies have the best evidence to support them. For example, current evidence shows that CBT is the most effective treatment for a wider range of types of mental ill health, including many anxiety problems such as panic, social anxiety, OCD and depression.

However it’s easy to get lost in all the information available online. Furthermore, therapy which is right for friends or family may not be the best fit for you, so personal recommendations can also be problematic.

One of the most effective ways to find out which therapy is best for you is to have a personal consultation with a trained mental health professional. They know exactly what questions to ask you about your situation, concerns and treatment goals, and can use their knowledge and expertise to recommend the most suitable type of therapy.

A Nuffield Health consultation will also provide you with a fully personalised report outlining the best treatment recommendations for you.

How do I know which therapist I can trust?

You may be shocked to know that anyone in the UK can call themselves a therapist, and many make claims on their website about different treatments, which aren’t always substantiated.

It can be difficult to make sense of the different courses and qualifications they mention. And it can be hard to know how effective they are as therapists and whether they work safely. You’d need to consider whether they’ve had any complaints, and whether they keep your information secure.

At Nuffield Health, we’ve already done all the research and legwork for you. By using our trusted service, there’s no need for guesswork or worry. With many years of experience, we know exactly what to look for in our therapists and which questions to ask.

All of our therapists have to pass stringent quality controls and we’re continually checking them to make sure they’re working safely and effectively to give our clients the best care and the highest quality service possible.

We also insist that all our therapists have the most thorough DBS clearance, valid insurance cover, the right level of qualifications to support you and the appropriate accreditation to provide the wide range of treatments on offer.

Talk to a therapist

Book a call with one of our therapists at a time and date that is convenient for you by using the calendar below. A therapist will help you to understand why you feel like you do, give you time to explore your concerns, answer any questions you have, and if further therapy is required, will discuss with you what approach is right for you to enable you to feel better. If you choose to continue with therapy we can then arrange the support that you need with one of our mental health professionals. Your call will last approximately 30 minutes.

Last updated Friday 7 October 2022

First published on Tuesday 18 May 2021