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Talking therapies

Talking therapies are psychological treatments. They involve talking to a trained therapist to support you to deal with negative thoughts and feelings. They help you to make positive changes.

You can have talking therapy in a group or one-to-one with a therapist. Some therapists also offer online or phone sessions.

Types of talking therapy

There are many types of talking therapy, such as:

  • counselling
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • family therapy
  • relationship counselling
  • group therapy
  • interpersonal therapy
  • behavioural activation
  • mindfulness-based therapy
  • dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

For some problems, one type of talking therapy may be better suited than others. You can decide which one works best for you.

You and your counsellor or therapist will work together to identify your goals.

The length of therapy will depend on the type of therapy and your needs.


Counselling is ideal for people who are healthy but need help coping with a current crisis, such as:

Counselling usually consists of a number of sessions. These can be up to 1 hour long. You talk in confidence to a counsellor, who helps you to think about your situation.

Find out about free counselling for people with a medical card


Psychotherapy helps you consider how your personality and life experiences affect your:

  • thoughts
  • feelings
  • relationships
  • behaviour

Psychotherapy helps you understand more about yourself. It helps you to deal with difficult situations more successfully.

Counselling and psychotherapy —

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you manage your problems by thinking more positively. It can help you change unhelpful patterns of behaviour.

CBT is based on the idea that the way you think about a situation affects how you act. Your actions then affect the way you think and feel. So, it is necessary to change both thinking (cognition) and what you do (behaviour) at the same time.

CBT can work for a variety of mental health problems, such as:

Online CBT

Online CBT also works well to help manage mental health and wellbeing.

Find organisations that provide online CBT services

Family therapy

In family therapy, a therapist or a pair of therapists work with the whole family. They explore each family member’s situation to understand the family's difficulties.

Family therapy can:

  • promote positive communication
  • improve stress management
  • build problem-solving skills within the family

You may be offered family therapy if the whole family is in difficulty, or if a member of your family is experiencing a mental health issue.

Family Therapy Association of Ireland -

Relationship counselling

Relationship counselling, or couples therapy, can help when a relationship is in crisis.

Both partners talk in confidence to a counsellor or therapist. Together, they explore what has gone wrong in the relationship and how to change things for the better. It can help couples learn more about each other's needs and to communicate better.

Both partners should attend, but they can still help if just 1 person attends.

Group therapy

Group therapy helps you find solutions to your problems by talking about them with other people and a therapist.

It's useful for people who share a common problem to get support and advice from each other.

Some people find that group therapy suits them better than individual therapy.

Behavioural activation

Behavioural activation is sometimes used to treat depression. It helps you to get involved in the activities of daily life so you develop a more positive behaviour.

Mindfulness-based therapies

Mindfulness-based therapies help you focus on your thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed.

They can be used to help treat:

  • depression
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • addiction

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) helps people learn how to cope with stress by combining:

  • meditation
  • gentle yoga
  • mind-body exercises

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combines meditation and breathing exercises with CBT.

Learn more about mindfulness

Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy focuses on your relationships with others, and on problems such as communication difficulties.

It explores how your mood can influence the way you relate to people close to you.

Dialectical behaviour therapy

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) helps you to identify and manage intense emotions.

It helps you improve the quality of your life by:

  • recognising and accepting things in your life that you cannot change
  • working on the things that you can change

Accessing talking therapy

Talk to your GP or primary care team about counselling and talking therapies. They can refer you to the right service.

You do not need a referral for most private counsellors or therapists.

You can also find an approved therapist through:

Organisations that provide mental supports and services

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025