In the UK there are many different ways to access psychotherapy, all of which have advantages and disadvantages.

If you’ve decided that you want to try therapy, then congrats! You've begun an important and hopefully fulfilling journey. Now to the next step: finding a therapist.

The routes below are the most common ways to get talking to a professional counsellor or therapist. Which one suits you will depend on what kind of therapist you're looking for, where you live, how much you earn, and more.

Through your GP

Your doctor can refer you to a psychotherapy service if they think you’ll benefit from talking to someone. In order to do this, you’ll need to book an appointment with your GP and explain your situation.

The type of therapy you receive will depend on the kind of mental distress you’re experiencing, and what’s available via the NHS in your area. Unfortunately, provision for mental health varies wildly in different parts of the UK. In some places, you may be entitled to year of psychodynamic psychotherapy, in others, the longest course may be as little as six weeks.

In most NHS trusts there are long waiting lists for forms of psychotherapy. These may require you to wait a number of months before your initial assessment by a counsellor or therapist.

Self-refer to IAPT

The NHS in England is supported by IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). A local IAPT service is where many GPs will refer patients for talk therapy, but it’s also possible for anyone to self-refer to IAPT.

You can find your nearest IAPT using the NHS Finder.

Once again, the therapies on offer differ, depending on where you live, but they are all free to use.

Charities and Non-profits

Many charities and other mental health organisations across the UK offer talk therapies to the public. Some are free, others offer discounted rates, or a sliding pay scale for those on low incomes.

Try searching the internet for a local charity, like a Mind branch, and checking out the services on offer.

One advantage of this approach is the possibility of finding and LGBTQ-specific counsellor, who may be more familiar with the challenges you face and the common issues within the wider LGBTQ community. Organisations like Terrence Higgins Trust, Mind, London Friend, and Albany Trust offer services like this within London.

Online therapy

These days there's also the option of receiving counselling and psychotherapy online. This has some great advantages: less travel, the comfort of your own home, and the flexibility to work it into your weekly schedule more easily.

A great example is Anxiety UK, which offers its own offers an online therapy service. 

If you find a therapist this way, it's important to check that they are BACP registered (read more about this below).

Private therapists

If none of the above options suit you, then you may consider finding a therapist privately. These counsellors and psychotherapists work independently, outside of larger organisations like the NHS or charities.

When searching for an independent therapist, it’s important to check that they are registered with an organisation like the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) or UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy) whose members are required to meet certain professional standards.

You can search for therapists via the UKCP finder, or the BACP therapist directory. Pink Therapy also offers a search for LGBTQ+ specialist therapists. Or you can simply get Googling.

This option isn’t for everyone, however, as seeking private therapy can be expensive. Costs can reach up to £100 per session and beyond. Some therapists list their fees on their websites, whilst others don’t.