Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


7-minute read

Key facts

  • Psychotherapy is a way to help people change their thinking and cope better with life's challenges.
  • Psychotherapy can be used to treat mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and addiction.
  • There are different types of psychotherapy, your therapist may combine different techniques to fit your situation.
  • Psychotherapy helps you understand your feelings and manage your stress in a healthier way.
  • Psychotherapy is not a quick treatment; it takes time for long lasting results.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a group of therapies that help you to understand why you feel, think and act in ways that are distressing and affect your life. Psychotherapy aims to help you work towards changing these.

These therapies are often used to treat mental health conditions. They can also be useful for anyone wanting to change unhelpful thoughts or behaviours.

Psychotherapy is provided by psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health professionals who have specialised training. It is sometimes called 'psychological therapy' or 'talking therapy'.

When would I need psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy can be used to treat:

If your doctor diagnoses one of these conditions, your doctor may also recommend you take prescription medicines together with psychotherapy.

Not everyone who has psychotherapy will have a mental health condition. These therapies can also be helpful to learn how to deal with stressful and challenging situations using healthy coping skills.

What are the types of psychotherapy?

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy — looks at the link between a person's thoughts, feelings and actions and how each may affect their perception (the way they view the world) and wellbeing.
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy — a type of CBT that involves learning 'mindfulness meditation'.
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy — a type of CBT that teaches positive behavioural skills to manage stress, emotions and develop positive relationships.
  • Interpersonal therapy — helps a person deal more effectively with people and situations they find difficult.
  • Supportive psychotherapy —a talking-based therapy designed to allow a person with mental health issues to voice their concerns and receive encouragement and help in finding practical solutions.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy — helps a person accept their thoughts and feelings by focusing on the present moment and to 'just notice' their thoughts and feelings.
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy — increases awareness of how distressing thoughts and feelings came to be and how they might play a role in their problems.

Your therapist may combine exercises or practices from different types of psychotherapy to tailor a therapy for you.

What are the benefits of psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy aims to help people with or without mental health issues to understand their feelings, thoughts and actions better and to discover their own resilience.

While psychotherapy can't stop stressful events, it can give you the power to cope in a healthy way. It can also help you understand yourself and learn new ways of thinking, behaving and feeling.

Psychotherapy takes time to show results. It usually will take a few months, but positive effects are often long lasting.

How can you get the most out of psychotherapy?

Here are some tips to get the most out of psychotherapy:

  • Choose a therapist that is right for you. Think about what you want to achieve and what type of psychotherapy may benefit you.
  • Be honest with your therapist. You need to share your thoughts, feelings and experiences honestly.
  • Be an active participant in the therapy. Therapy works best as a partnership: you need to do the work.
  • Put in the time. If you have homework, make this part of your daily routine. It may be difficult in the beginning, but a new habit takes time to become routine.
  • If it's not working, consider a different approach. Talk to your therapist about whether a different psychotherapy approach may be more beneficial for you. A good therapist will welcome feedback.

How can I find a psychotherapist?

If your life is in immediate danger call 000 and ask for an ambulance, or visit a hospital emergency department.

To find a psychotherapist see your doctor for a referral. You may be eligible for a mental health treatment plan. This helps you claim up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional. You can also access some psychotherapies online.

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia and Good Therapy Australia have search tools to find local psychotherapists and the types of therapy they specialise in.

The Australian Counselling Association has a search tool to find a registered Counsellor in your area.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency can verify whether psychologists and psychiatrists are registered.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Resources and support

If you have further questions or are interested in psychotherapy speak to your doctor and they can refer you to a therapist who specialises in psychotherapy.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are many organisations that offer further resources and support such as:

  • Head to Health has advice and information to get connected to local mental health services, you can call for free on 1800 595 212. Check the operating times.
  • Eheadspace online and telephone service support for young people ages 12 to 25 years and their families who are going through a tough time. You can call on 1800 650 890 or online.
  • Beyond Blue has a counsellor service you can call on 1300 224 636 or chat to them online.
  • SANE offers a range of support services, including counselling, peer support and online groups, online information and resources.
  • ReachOut has further information on cognitive behavioural therapy.

Looking for information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people?

  • 13Yarn who operate a free and confidential service run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Cognitive behavioural therapy | Professional help | ReachOut Australia

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy used to address different kinds of mental health issues.

Read more on website

Types of therapy: CBT, ACT, DBT and IFS | ReachOut Australia

Learn about different types of therapy such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Internal Family Systems (IFS).

Read more on website


Quick Facts Treatment for mental health issues, trauma, and distressing experiences can include psychological treatments, medication, support in the c...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Interpersonal psychotherapy - BluePages

Find out if interpersonal psychotherapy is likely to help.

Read more on e-hub Web Services - Australian National University (ANU) website

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

Quick Facts Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a modified version of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) designed to treat borderline personality...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy - BluePages

Find out if cognitive behaviour therapy is likely to help.

Read more on e-hub Web Services - Australian National University (ANU) website

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy - BluePages

Find out if dialectical behaviour therapy is likely to help.

Read more on e-hub Web Services - Australian National University (ANU) website

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) - Better Health Channel

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can help you change unhelpful or unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy - BluePages

Find out if psychodynamic psychotherapy is likely to help.

Read more on e-hub Web Services - Australian National University (ANU) website

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Explained | THIS WAY UP

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Explained

Read more on This Way Up website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.