All About the Science of Self Help Therapy and Why You Might Not Need a Therapist to Overcome Mental Health Problems

What is Self Help Therapy?

Self-Help Therapy is exactly the same as traditional psychotherapy but is performed on yourself without a therapist being involved.

Research indicates that self-help therapy programmes can be as effective as conventional face-to-face therapy and offer a number of advantages over them, including the ability to make changes in your own time and in your own home.

There are a range of factors which differentiate effective self help therapy from traditional self-teaching methods which have the reputation of being largely ineffective.

Therapy is a Conversation!

Conventional Psychotherapy is best described as a relational act.

What this means is that it involves people relating to each other.

When a therapist and a client participate in a psychotherapy session they only talk to each other.

The therapist talks to the client and the client talks to the therapist.

The therapist may suggest that the client could think about or make sense of their current personal circumstances in different ways and if the client is able to do this then they will invariably feel differently about their problem.

You can call this therapy conversation almost anything you like such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • EMDR
  • Hypnosis
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Inter-personal therapy

The only real difference between any of the talking therapies is that the words that the therapist uses differ according to the model of therapy being used.

Furhthermore, if the therapist and the client both speak English, then all of the therapy words are going to be part of the English language.

There will not be any magical words that will somehow make the client’s brain chemistry change without the client knowing about it, just words out of the English language vocabulary!

It should be apparent, therefore, that psychotherapy is nothing more than a conversation between two people in which English words (or the common language of the therapist and client) are used to communicate a set of ideas and beliefs.

Therapy is the Acquisition of New Knowledge.

Because it is widely recognised that talking therapies DO help people to overcome a wide range of problems, the question then becomes HOW does talking to someone in a room result in the client FEELING differently about their lives?

The answer to this question is very simple.

As a result of the conversation with the therapist, the client learns ‘new’ things about themselves including the meanings that they have attributed to their life experiences ie. what those experiences meant to them.

They may also come to understand that some of their coping strategies may have been making the problems worse and not better.

During the course of therapy, therefore, the client acquires lots of new knowledge about what happened to them and what they did to cope with what happened.

Change is the Application of New Knowledge.

On its own, this new knowledge that the client acquires will do NOTHING.

It is nothing more than a set of ideas stored in the brain of the client in the same way that knowing how a car works and driving a car are completely different things.

Successfully driving a car requires applying the knowledge that one has about how cars work in a practical way.

In other words, sitting in the driving seat and operating all of the required controls that lead to the car moving, safely, from A to B.

Consequently, the only way to feel differently about a problem, is to use the new knowledge that is acquired during the therapy conversation in a practical way.

We call this the practical application of new knowledge.

How do I get this new knowledge?

New knowledge can be acquired by many different routes that do not require another human being to be present, including:

  • Knowledge contained from written words.
  • Knowledge gained from new experiences.
  • Knowledge gained from watching videos or other visual materials.
  • Knowledge gained from other people you talk to.
  • Knowldge gained from a self-help therapy course.

There is no difference between the knowledge one acquires through a book than that acquired by listening to somebody speaking.

Self-Help Therapy Knowledge

The principal difference between the knowledge acquired through self-help therapy and that provided by a therapist is that a therapist is able to determine if the client is APPLYING the new knowledge to their problem.

In other words, the therapist observes if the client is BEHAVING differently and that they have APPLIED what they have learnt to their problem.

Overall, therefore, the process of therapy involves providing and monitoring the acquisition and application of new knowledge by the client.

Application Monitoring in the Self Help Context

The acquisition and practical application of new knowledge gleaned from the self-help therapy context is not monitored or measured by a therapist and so self-monitoring has to be used.

This is normally achieved by a number of methods:

  • Checking the level of understanding of any new knowledge that is acquired (knowledge testing).
  • Comparing old and new behaviours (monitoring the application of new knowledge).
  • Monitoring and measuring one’s feelings (checking behavioural outcomes).

In this sense, self-help therapy courses involve you acting as your own therapist.

Arrange your FREE initial consultation here.

If you’d like to find out more about self help therapy and recovering from mental health problems then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular issues and the different types of mental health counselling we offer without you having to commit to any sessions going forward.

The consultation lasts around 50 minutes and is a great opportunity to meet with either Paul or Joan and decide if you would like to proceed with any support.

Applied Psychology


Links to More Information

These links take you to other resources on the web.

Self-Help Therapy on the NHS website

Not Ready to Commit to Therapy Quite Yet?

Then why not see if you can solve your own problems using our comprehensive, Online Self-Help CBT course.


Written especially for people who prefer not to engage with a therapist before first doing everything they can to overcome their problems themselves.

Mirroring our in-house course of CBT, it contains everything that you need to know to tackle mental health challenges for only £149.

Areas We Serve

We offer mental health services, therapy & counselling for people living in:

  • Wolverhampton
  • West Midlands
  • Wombourne
  • South Staffordshire
  • Telford
  • Shrewsbury
  • Shropshire

For those living further afield, we also offer Online Therapy Services using Zoom.