If you are thinking about having some therapy, possibly for the first time, it is quite natural to feel a bit apprehensive and unsure what to expect. With this in mind, we have tried to address some of the frequently asked questions and concerns people often have about therapy.

Who is therapy for?

Anybody can go to see a therapist if they feel it would be be useful for them. Typically people initially tend to consider therapy when they are facing problems or difficulties in their lives. However, therapy is not just for those who are struggling or faced with life challenges, or for those dealing with mental health issues. It can be just as useful and beneficial for people who are interested in self development and want to understand themselves better, or who want to focus on improving their overall sense of wellbeing.

Also more and more people are trying therapy these days. In fact according to a study conducted by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) earlier this year, over half of all people in the UK have either had therapy or know somebody who has, and this number is growing as people are becoming more comfortable with the idea of seeking therapy to help with their problems and issues.

To read more about therapy and who might benefit from it, take a look at an article by psychotherapist Andrew Samuels who writes about this in more detail here.

How do I know if my issues are serious enough for me to see a therapist?

A lot of people worry that the issues they are facing are not big enough to warrant seeing a therapist and that there are other people who need therapy far more than them so they don't really deserve it. However, if you are struggling in some way in your life – with relationships, work, life issues and experiences, mental health, your emotions, thoughts, behaviour or difficult memories – the chances are therapy could help.

Also when trying to decide whether therapy is suitable for you – rather than thinking about the size or seriousness of your problems relative to other people's, perhaps it would be more useful to think about the impact your problems are having on you. For instance, are your current issues or problems impacting negatively on your life in some way? Would you like things to be different? If so, therapy could be right for you. And if going to see someone could help you to feel happier, more at ease and more content in your life, isn't it worth giving yourself that opportunity?

How do I work out who is the right therapist for my needs?

When you decide to find a counsellor it can be hard to know where to start or what you should be looking for. The great thing about the welldoing.org Find a Therapist is that it does most of the work for you. All you have to do is complete a short questionnaire about what is troubling you alongside a few other things such as your location, and your answers will then generate a selection of therapists matched to your individual needs.

It will be up to you to decide who on this list to get in touch with, but hopefully this should make the whole process a lot easier and make you feel more confident about your choice, whilst the individual therapists profiles including photos will help to give you a feel for what they are like and how each of them work.

How can I be sure a therapist is properly qualified?

The level of training that therapists have had can vary significantly. So if you are looking for a therapist yourself, online or elsewhere, it can be difficult to know for sure whether someone is properly qualified or not.

However, our innovative Find a Therapist Directory takes the guess work out of this as all the therapists listed on our Directory are members of the main therapy accrediting organisations in the UK for counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists and hypnotherapists working with children, teenagers, families, adults and couples. This includes the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) alongside a number of others.

To become members of these organisations therapists need to have qualified to a high standard and they must also adhere to a professional code of ethics. Therefore this means that if you use our Find a Therapist Directory you can confidently choose from and trust in the selection of therapists matched to you and your needs, knowing that they are well qualified and professional.

How long is a therapy session and how often do I need to go?

Usually therapy sessions last for 50 minutes or sometimes for an hour. Typically clients will have sessions once a week at the same day and time, although some therapists such as psychoanalysts will see clients more than once a week. Additionally, if you are in a real state of crisis in your life many therapists will offer more frequent therapy sessions – say twice a week – for a limited period of time to help support you through this.

How much does it cost?

The cost of therapy can vary quite a lot. Therapists determine their individual fees based on a number of factors such as where they work, how much they think their services are worth and how long clients are likely to be coming to see them. Some will have set fees from the outset, whilst others will discuss and agree the fee with you when you start seeing them.

As a general rule, it is likely to be more expensive to see a therapist in London (especially Central London) than in many other parts of the country, although that isn't always the case. In London it is quite normal to pay upwards of £50 for individual therapy, whereas in some other parts of the country you may be able to see a therapist for less than £50.

This may seem like a significant weekly financial outlay, however, like psychotherapist and author Philippa Perry says, when weighing this up it is worth asking yourself “what has more value to you than your mental well-being? What is more important than getting the most out of life? Therapy can provide you with immeasurable rewards in well being, greater energy, and joy for living, which will hopefully be more than adequate compensation”.

Where do therapists usually see clients? What can I expect the room to be like?

You will normally see a therapist at the same location and in the same room every week. Some therapists work in rooms within their homes while others work from consulting rooms that they rent independently or share with other therapists.

As to what the room is likely to look like, again this will vary. Some rooms are very homely whilst others are more like an office. Some therapists have sole use of their room and decorate it in the way they want, whilst others may share or rent the room they use and might not have a say as to how the room looks. However, all rooms will normally have either a couch or a chair for you to sit on and typically the therapist will try to create an environment that feels safe and comfortable.

How do I know that I can trust the therapist with what I tell them?

On the whole, therapy is a very personal and private undertaking. As such, an important part of a therapist's job is to create a sense of trust and confidence in them and in the relationship between you, so that you feel able to share things that feel difficult or perhaps you have never felt able to share with anyone before. All good therapists take this seriously and will not discuss what you have shared with others, unless they are required to do so either ethically or legally.

To explain, if you go to see a therapist who is a member of one of the main accrediting bodies for therapists in the UK – like all the therapists on our Directory – they must adhere to a professional code of ethics which includes strict rules about confidentiality. There are only a very few instances where they would be ethically or legally bound to breach confidentiality and most good therapists should explain this to you in the first few sessions or they will have it in their therapy contracts so it is clear.

What if I meet a therapist but I don't feel comfortable with them?

When working with a therapist it is important you feel comfortable with whoever you choose and that you will be able to trust and open up to them over time. With this in mind, regardless of their qualifications and experience, not every therapist will be a good fit for you personally.

So, if after getting in touch with a therapist and meeting them for the first time you don't feel comfortable with them, it is important you realise you are not obligated to work with them. Most therapists will have some form of contract, whether written or verbal, so the main thing is to make sure that you don't agree to anything if you are unsure. After the first session you can always say you would like to take time to think about it or you can tell them if you don't feel the fit is quite right.

How long will therapy take?

This is a difficult question to answer as it is dependent on a number of factors including the issues that you are seeking help for, how much time and energy you are able to commit to therapy, what you feel you can afford, and the type of therapy that you choose to try.

However typically from the outset the therapist will be able to give you some idea as to whether short or longer term therapy is more suitable in dealing with your issues. If short term, this might be for between 6-12 weeks initially, whereas longer term therapy is more open ended and may take many months or sometimes a year or more.

Also, some clients go to therapy for a period of time and then decide to stop for a while and go back at a later stage, either to see that therapist again or somebody else. So there are no clear cut rules about how this works. Instead it is something that is discussed and and agreed on between the client and therapist and it is always possible to review things or change your mind if you decide you no longer want to have therapy, or your circumstances make it difficult for you to keep coming.

I am worried about someone else or I would like to find out more about mental health issues and support services. Where can I look?

A lot of us can be worried about a family member, partner or friend and don't know here to go to find information. We hope that welldoing.org will become a useful resource for you, with articles, information and tips on a wide range of issues to do with mental, emotional and physical health and wellbeing. So do take some time to look around the site and see if you can find material that might be relevant or helpful. 

Beyond this, there are a number of mental health organisations in the UK that you might find relevant and useful for providing information and support. These include the following:

Mind

Mind offers a range of support and services to people dealing with mental health issues and those supporting them.

Sane

Sane works to improve the quality of life for anybody dealing with mental health issues and to reduce stigma and prejudice.

Rethink

Helps people affected by mental illnesses and works to challenge attitudes about mental illness within society.

Time to Change

Time to Change is England's biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.

Young Minds

An organisation committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.

NHS Choices

The NHS website which is full of information and advice on a wide range of mental and physical health issues including links to services.

The Samaritans

The Samaritans is a charity staffed by volunteers who are trained to listen and support people. The Samaritans telephone service is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.