What is psychological therapy?

Psychological therapy is used to treat emotional problems and mental health conditions. This includes conditions like:

How do psychological therapies work?

Psychological therapies are evidence based psychological treatments that can help improve your health. This is called psychological practice.

They help you make changes to your thinking, behaviour and relationships. They’re used to treat mental health difficulties and improve your physical health. This can help you feel healthier and happier.

Psychological practice means you get help from someone who’s trained in psychological skills and techniques to help you with your health.

It can be delivered in person, in groups, remotely or digitally.

You might attend your appointment on your own or sometimes you can bring someone with you.

Types of psychological therapy

There are many different therapies. The type used will depend on your:

  • personal needs
  • which method your practitioner thinks will be most helpful for resolving your issues

All psychological therapies offered to you should be based on evidence to ensure you get the treatment most likely to help you.

The psychological therapies matrix

The types of psychological therapies offered in Scotland is described within the psychological therapies matrix.

This describes what therapies are most likely to help you based on your needs and the current evidence.

Some examples of psychological therapies are:

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy explores your thoughts, behaviour and beliefs. Your psychological practitioner will discuss these issues with you. This means you can try to develop more helpful ways of thinking to allow you to overcome your problems.

You and your psychological practitioner will agree on tasks for you to do between sessions. This will help you deal with problems yourself so you can live the life you choose.

Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) has been shown to be particularly effective in treating depression.

Your psychological practitioner will consider the link between your relationships and emotional problems. They’ll help you develop new approaches to dealing with relationships to help improve your mental health.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) encourages you to accept your thoughts and feelings. ACT focusses on accepting your feelings, rather than fighting or avoiding them.

ACT helps you think about the values that are important to you. It then aims to look at how you can commit to moving forward in activities that help meet those values.

How to access psychological therapy

You should speak to your GP or another healthcare professional if you think you might benefit from psychological therapy.

Some mental health professionals work in a GP practice. If not, your GP may be able to refer you to the right psychological practitioner to help you.

You may also be able to refer yourself for digital talking therapies if this is an option in your local area. This means you can go directly to a psychological practitioner without seeing your GP first.


You may find it helpful to try an online self-help psychological therapy course.

Online resources for depression, anxiety and other mental health problems are available. They can be as effective as face-to-face therapy with a psychological practitioner.

They’re often available free on the NHS. They also mean you don’t need wait for treatment.

Further information is available through:

Last updated:
31 October 2023