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  • Writer's pictureDr Heather Dyson

What is talking therapy?

If you are struggling with your mental health, be it dealing with distress or negative thoughts and feelings, then accessing the appropriate help can be a daunting task. You may be trying to work out what the difference is between a Psychologist, a Counsellor and a Psychiatrist is, or even simply wondering ‘what is talking therapy?’

Put simply, ‘talking therapy’ refers to therapy in which you talk about your experiences and feelings with a trained mental health professional. Talking about your concerns can be a positive way to access your negative emotions and then find a way to make sense of what is happening. It can also be a way to formulate a way forward, that enables you to find ways to cope with feelings of distress and even recognise unhelpful or damaging thought patterns or behaviours.

I thought I’d outline a few of the talking therapies available to you. This is just a small selection and if you need more help or guidance, you can find it on the NHS website and through other organisations such as MIND and the British Psychological Society

Psychodynamic Therapy.

Psychodynamic therapy has a long history and is based on the theories of Sigmund Freud. The central idea is that you, along with your therapist, look at your early life and see how these experiences have shaped you and how they still contribute to your thoughts and feelings in the present day. It is possible to do short term courses of psychodynamic therapy but most last between a few months and a few years. Psychodynamic therapy can be useful for depression, anxiety, PTSD and a range of other long-term mental health difficulties.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT for short, looks at how we interact (our behaviour) with our thoughts (cognitions). It seeks to redress feelings of anxiety and depression by looking at how we react to negative thoughts and looking for a different solution. You would usually start by increasing your awareness of your own thoughts, noticing how you react both psychologically and physiologically. Once you can identify these patterns, you would then move on to look at how to change your relationship with negative thoughts and feelings. CBT is usually a short-term solution, which usually runs for between 5-20 sessions.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, or DBT for short, is similar in many ways to CBT but it was specially adapted for individuals who experience emotions in a very intense way. While CBT and DBT both support individuals to challenge unhelpful behaviours, DBT looks at self-acceptance. By working in a safe, supported environment with your therapist, you can explore, recognise and even accept and regulate challenging emotions. The model is based on the two central tenets of acceptance and change, encouraging individuals to find a balance between the two.

Humanistic Therapy.

Humanistic Therapy is based on the core belief in developing ‘unconditional positive regard’ for yourself. This means that you will explore what is troubling you on a day to day basis, with the emphasis placed on you being the one person who knows and understands your own experience. Your therapist will focus solely on you as an individual, seeing your difficulties in a holistic, person-centred approach. You will be encouraged to see your positive traits and will build on this, so that you can use your own insights to grow and reach your full potential. It helps people feel more comfortable with themselves, allowing them to flourish and find profound, personal meaning in their lives.

Well, there we go. Just a few examples of talking therapies, and there are many, many more! In my practices in Guildford and Surbiton, as well the therapeutic interventions mentioned above, I also offer Narrative exposure Therapy (NET), Trauma-Focused CBT (TF-CBT), and EMDR. Ultimately, you need to find the one which is best for you and your own set of difficulties. Many therapists, myself included, will practice a combination of different types of therapy, dependent on the client. If you would like to speak to me about my own type of therapy, or to find out more, you can email me here at

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