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Talking Treatments

Talking treatments are increasingly being recognised as effective ways of helping people with mental health problems, either combined with medication or as an alternative.

What are talking treatments?
Talking treatments, help people to talk about their problems and to understand and handle them better, with someone who is trained to help. They are not a quick and easy solution, but in suitable cases can be very effective.

Different talking treatments vary in a number of ways.

  • The training and perspective of the therapist: psycho-dynamic, cognitive, behavioural, client centred etc.
  • Whether treatment is given to people as individuals, couples, families or groups.
  • The length of time treatment takes: long or short-term, depending on the type of problem and the perspective of the therapist.

Treatments are given by a range of different individuals, including clinical psychologists, counsellors and psychotherapists. Psychiatrists and community psychiatric nurses may carry out talking treatments as part of their work.
It is important to remember that different approaches suit different people. If you find that one particular approach has not helped you, try another.

There are different therapies based on different theories such as:

Psychodynamic – Explores deep-seated problems and the way they relate to current relationships and early childhood experiences. The relationship between the therapist and the client is an important tool in exploring problems and ways to deal with them.

Systemic – A form of psychodynamic therapy which helps the person to see themselves within the 'system’ of relationships of which they are a part, and to understand the roles that they and others have taken on. A means of changing old patterns and improving relationships.

Gestalt – Has an emphasis on the here and now rather than past events; the person is encouraged to get in touch with aspects of their life and personality which may have been suppressed, so that they can become aware of their needs as a whole person.

Behavioural – Concentrates on changing problem behaviour such as being too afraid to go into a shop or washing many times a day. Often uses a gradual approach to help people change in small steps while observing and analysing behaviour thus enabling a person to reassert control over what they do. Most useful to those suffering from phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Cognitive – Aims to help by altering thinking patterns which may be at the root of a person’s problems, with the therapist helping the person to understand and be aware of their thinking processes. A person’s thinking may have become negative or destructive which can be pointed out, and a different way of seeing things suggested.

Transactional analysis – often undertaken in a group, this focuses on 'the child’, 'the adult’ and 'the parent’ as different components of personality.

Group therapy – Groups meet generally weekly. People in the group with the help of one or two psychotherapists learn more about how they relate to others. They are helped to overcome difficulties by sharing experiences and learning, for example to become more assertive or to manage their own anger.

If you want more information about talking treatments, Mind have a useful booklet called "Understanding Talking Treatments", available from Mind Publications Mail Order Service, Granta House, 15-19 Broadway, Stratford, London, E15 4BQ. Tel: 020 8221 9666.

Where can I get treatment?
Within the NHS, talking treatments are available from community psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists, and from the Psychological Therapies Service. You would need to be referred by your doctor.


Related Information

Related Factsheets

Service Definitions

Services associated to counselling in all its various forms, including one-to-one and group therapy.
These are psychological treatments in which improvement in a person's symptoms or wellbeing is achieved by talking with a therapist or counsellor rather than, or as well as, taking medication.

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