• 1.5 million people are seeing therapists in the UK every year

  • 1 in 4 people will struggle with a common mental health disorder in any year, says Mind charity

  • Does psychotherapy and counselling really work? Clients share their experience

There's an estimated 1.5 million people in therapy every year in the UK; in 2014 an estimated 28% of Britons had consulted a psychotherapist or counsellor for help with mental health difficulties. Not necessarily an indication that people are struggling more with mental health, the general trend for increased numbers of people in therapy could relate to diminishing stigma. In 2017, 1.4 million people were referred to NHS therapy services, and the NHS has reported improved recovery rates in 49% of patients within a year, with 65% showing 'reliable improvement' as a result of IAPT services, most commonly CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Reviews of relevant publications have concluded that up to 30% of people will benefit long-term from just three sessions of therapy, but generally people need between eight (50%) and 14 (75%) sessions to experience this same reliable improvement in terms of their psychological or emotional struggles. 

The benefits of private therapy

Unfortunately, the waiting lists for NHS services are often long, and you don't have much say in which type of therapy you are given. And, while numbers are helpful in painting a overall image of the effectiveness of therapy, first person accounts give a fuller idea of the life-changing potential of psychotherapy. We've had many clients share their experience of therapy on welldoing.org, such as Clara Bridges, who has borderline personality disorder

"Therapy is my ultimate ‘safe place’. It’s somewhere I’m accepted for who I really am, by someone who cares about me and who is genuinely interested in me. And that acceptance gives me a priceless gift – a greater sense of freedom, and of hope."

Vicky Malkin has struggled with chronic depression:

"Over the years, with the help of therapy, I have identified where my chronic lack of self-esteem comes from. Knowing the source does not make it any easier to change. However, each round of therapy has brought new weapons into my armoury in the fight against depression"

For Astrid, it was the more present issue of a breakup that triggered her search for a therapist: "This sense of relief was one of the things I liked best about therapy. Feeling supported and emotionally looked after were also much welcomed experiences for a person coming from a background where emotional support was not a concern." Jane Oliff-Cooper was also inspired to get help after her marriage break down: "Therapy has been transformative and, to anyone toying with the idea of seeking support and help, I can only say that you have little to lose and so much to gain."

Paul suffered anxiety and depression after his wife died; he started EMDR therapy: "My therapy lasted 18 months. I pushed it hard; I wanted to understand what was happening. It makes absolute sense to seek this kind of help when you need it. It’s caveman talk to see it as a sign of weakness." Another male therapy client agrees that there is no shame in asking for help: "To me seeing a therapist up there with the doctor and dentist - it’s necessary maintenance. The process of pouring over your feeling is good and useful. They tend to get buried, but therapy gets you in touch with who you are and what you do."

Why therapy really works

For many people who visit a therapist, it is the objectivity, open-mindedness and empathy that their therapists and counsellors offer them. Talking to someone who isn't a friend or family member can be hugely helpful, giving you the chance to explore thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement or consequence. 

In his article exploring the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship, welldoing.org therapist Joshua Miles explains: "Without the therapeutic relationship there can be no therapy. In some ways you could say that the relationship is the therapy. How the client and therapist engage matters in defining the successes of therapy and counselling. This relationship is essential to establishing and promoting willingness for the client to share and engage within the therapeutic space. The relationship will hopefully allow the client to move toward more open behaviours and an increased level of self-awareness."

Beyond the type of therapy being offered, it is the relationship between the therapist and client that helps people overcome both past and present difficulties. On welldoing.org there are various ways we've made the search for the right therapist easier. You can use our questionnaire to tailor the search results for therapists near you, or you can make use of our personalised matching service, where a more in-depth assessment is anonymously reviewed by a mental health professional before we match you with the therapist or counsellor best suited to support you. 

Further reading

Invest in you with our personalised matching service

Meet the therapist interviews 

Read more experiences of therapy