About therapy

What type of therapies are there?

There are lots of types of therapy but there are four main groups that people are familiar with:

  1. Counselling: An individual therapy that can take place in variety of places including schools (a guidance counsellor), in a hospital or over the phone (such as Samaritans)
  2. Psychotherapy: An individual talking therapy that is used as a treatment for a range of mental health difficulties
  3. CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: A type of therapy which aims to teach you how to cope with problems through changing the way that you think about them
  4. Family Therapy: A therapy that usually involves parents or carers as being actively part of the treatment

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How long is an average therapy session?

Most therapies sessions are between 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Sometimes Family Therapy sessions are longer because there are more people involved.  A service will inform you how long your sessions will be before you start working with them.

How often do sessions take place?

The most common pattern is that therapy sessions take place once a week.  So, if you have been offered 12 therapy sessions, this would usually take place over 12 weeks. 

Some therapies are more spread out.  Family Therapy, for example, might take place once every 2 to 3 weeks. 

There are some forms of psychotherapy might take place more than once a week.

Whatever form of therapy you are offered, you should be informed before you start how often the sessions will take place.

Where do sessions take place?

Therapy sessions mostly takes place in therapy centres or what are called CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).  The service would have rooms specially allocated for therapy and those rooms are set out in a way to try and provide a calm environment where you and your family, if appropriate, can think and communicate easily with your therapist and each other.

There are also some forms of therapy which are offered in a more community-based way and may be called outreach teams.  A therapist from these services will go out and meet a young person in their homes or in a community setting, such as a café.  These types of services are less common than CAMHS services where most therapy will take place.

What might I have to do in a therapy session?

Therapists will often ask you questions about yourself to try to understand any difficulties you may be experiencing.  They may also use questionnaires to help both you and your therapist understand your situation better and monitor your progress across all your therapy sessions.

Your therapist might also ask you to practice things between sessions because part of your work together is to help you change some of the things that you may be finding difficult.  By suggesting things that you can go away and try, you can then come back to the next session and describe how you found those things and whether they were helpful or not.

How do I get the most out of my therapy session?

One of the important things is to agree at the beginning of therapy what the purpose of the therapy is.  Why are you coming and what do you want help with?  And this is not always easy to work out.  Sometimes, life is complicated, and things may not be going well and it may be hard for you to know exactly what you want help with at first.  But it’s important to have the discussion with your therapist and to try to be clear about what you’d like help with. 

Another important thing to ensure you get the most out of therapy, is to be honest.  Your therapist will be keen to understand you and what things are like from your point of view.  This may seem awkward at first and you may have to build that relationship with your therapist but for therapy to be really helpful it’s important that they really understand what’s going on with you rather than you telling them what you feel they would like to hear.  

What if I struggle to attend therapy sessions?

There may be many different reasons why a young person might struggle to attend therapy sessions.  Some of them could be practical, like not having the money to get transport to the session or the time of the therapy session itself.   The important thing, if you are finding practical barriers to attending, is to discuss this with your therapist, or with your parent, guardian or trusted adult, to see if they can help you find a solution which will make it easier for you to attend.

There can be other reasons why a young person may struggle to attend.  You may feel that the therapy is not that helpful to you.  Or that you don’t feel motivated to attend or that the therapy sessions don’t make you feel better and you’re not quite sure what the point of attending is.  And these are really important things to try to address with your therapist because, if they are not sorted out and you are missing sessions, it’s likely that the sessions will not be as effective as they should be in order to help you make progress.

What happens if I don't want to go to therapy anymore?

If you don’t want to attend therapy anymore, it may be for very good reasons. And it’s worth having a discussion with your therapist to explain why you don’t wish to attend anymore.  Is it because you feel much better and don’t see the point of continuing?  Or is it because you don’t feel that the therapy sessions are not being helpful?  These are two very different things.  The important thing is that you discuss why you don’t want to attend anymore and, maybe, discuss how you might manage your mental health away from therapy, whether that’s through a support network, through self-care techniques or through another service.

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