If you’ve not been feeling yourself lately, there’s support available that could help. Talking is often the best way to start feeling better. It’s never too late to begin.
What are talking therapies?
Our mental health is more important than ever – particularly because how we’re feeling mentally can have a big impact on how we feel physically. If you’re finding things tough and it’s affecting your mood and how you feel, then speaking to your GP is good place to start.
Talking about your mental health can be daunting, but your GP will be used to having these conversations and won't judge you. They are there to help and will know what to do.
There’s something called 'talking therapies', which can really start to help people who are feeling low, anxious or out of sorts. They can sometimes be referred to as IAPT (improving access to psychological therapies) or just psychological therapies. They involve talking to someone who is specially trained to help us manage our thoughts and feelings and the effect they have on our behaviour and mood.
You can usually refer yourself to a local service to see if you could benefit from treatment, or your doctor or nurse can do it for you if you prefer.
There are different kinds of talking therapies. The most common are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and counselling.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy can help you by looking at and changing how you think and behave. It’s based on the idea that the way we feel is affected by our thoughts, beliefs and behaviour.
- Counselling lets you talk about your problems and feelings in a safe environment. Counsellors are trained to listen and empathise. They won’t give you advice but will support and guide you to understand your problems and deal with negative thoughts and feelings.
Has coronavirus changed the way talking therapies are provided?
Your mental health is just as important now as before the pandemic so you shouldn’t feel like you’re making a fuss or put off getting help. Talking therapies are still open and available for anyone who is struggling or finding that things are getting on top of them.
To help keep everyone safe, the way that talking therapies are provided will be a bit different – you may be asked to have your appointments on the phone or by video call.
This might feel a bit strange and you may be worried about how it will work. It’s a good idea to prepare for the call in advance to help you feel more comfortable. Think about where in your home you will have the call and find a place where you feel relaxed and won’t be disturbed. If you have any concerns or questions don’t be afraid to ask your therapist beforehand. They know that remote appointments can be daunting and will be happy to talk you through it.
Some people won’t be able to have their appointments over the phone or by video call. This could be because of hearing or communication difficulties, for example. If you can’t have your appointments this way talk to your therapist to see what other kind of support they could offer.
Could talking therapies work for me?
Talking is often the best way to start feeling better. It's not always easy to open up about our feelings, but there's a lot of truth in that old saying 'a problem shared is a problem halved.'
Talking therapies are proven to work – and they can work particularly well for people who are older. Even if you've tried them before and weren't sure, you can give talking therapies another go.
You may be put off by not having face-to-face appointments at the moment and having to do things by phone or video call, but you may be pleasantly surprised. Lots of older people have benefitted from talking therapies throughout the pandemic and have found that remote appointments have worked just as well for them.
Where can I find talking therapy services?
Talking therapies are available to all of us who need it, for free, through the NHS. You can ask your GP about talking therapies today or you may be able to refer yourself. You can also find local talking therapy services near you on the NHS website.
What happens after I've been referred?
The process is not the same in every area, though it might be something like this:
- After you, or your GP, has referred you for talking therapies you would normally answer some questions about the way you’ve been feeling. This could be on a website or over the phone. Sometimes they might ask about whether you’re feeling like ending your life, so don’t be surprised by this question.
- If the answers to the questions suggest you could benefit from some help, you might then get a phone call from your local talking therapies or wellbeing service, where they may talk through some of the questions again with you.
- They will use this information to help decide what type of talking treatment you would benefit the most from and pass this on to the relevant team, who will organise your first appointment.
Please be aware that going through this process will not always result in a course of talking therapies. There may also be gaps of days or weeks between these stages. However, the service should be focused on providing the support that is right for you and will make sure that you have somewhere to turn if your needs become more urgent.
You might be worried about bothering your GP – but you shouldn’t. Services are running and how we’re feeling mentally and emotionally is a priority. Don’t put off getting support.
What are the alternatives to therapy?
A trained practitioner can teach you muscle relaxation techniques to help you cope in situations where you feel anxious. This usually consists of 12-15 weekly one-hour sessions.
Your GP may prescribe medications to help treat the symptoms of depression. These are called antidepressants and there is a range of different types available. Antidepressants can be combined with talking treatments – your GP should explain which is best for you. It can take up to two weeks for medications to start having an effect. You may need to continue taking antidepressants for several months to ensure a long-term recovery.
Self-help groups can be a way to get support, share ideas on what helps, boost your mood and gain self-confidence. Meeting other people who understand what you’re going through can be helpful, especially if you’re feeling isolated or lonely.