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Guide to counselling

Counselling is a type of 'talking therapy' used to treat illnesses such as depression and other conditions that cause psychological stress or anxiety, from eating disorders to port-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Counsellors are trained to listen and give advice to help patients work through negative thoughts and deal with their problems.

Types of counselling

Counselling is used as a catch-all term for talking therapies, but is also a type of 'short-term' therapy in its own right. A trained counsellor will work with a patient over a space of time - sometimes just the length of a telephone call, or over the space of weeks or months - with a view to alleviating the patient's problems and providing them with the tools to move forward on their own.

Psychotherapy is a more in-depth talking therapy used to treat conditions such as depression, addiction, eating disorders, self-harm and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Psychotherapy looks at how a person's personality and experiences affects their thoughts, behaviour and relationships with others. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a more in-depth look at how past experiences, relationships and unconscious thoughts influence current behaviour.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of counselling or psychotherapy designed to retrain the way a person thinks when faced with a stressful situation. The idea is that they way we think influences how we behave; and how with behave, in turn, affects the way we think. It can be used to treat a number of conditions including anxiety, depression and panic disorder.

Other types of counselling and therapy include motivational counselling, telephone counselling, group therapy and relationship and family counselling.

Where to get counselling

In the UK, counselling is available through the NHS free of charge. A GP will often refer a patient for some type of counselling, although treatments are often short-term and waiting lists can be long.

It may be necessary to seek treatment privately. This can cost between £40-£100 per hour. Consult the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (bacp.co.uk) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (psychotherapy.org.uk) for more information.

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