Protecting your emotional health.

It’s not unusual for CHD patients to need space to talk over concerns or feelings related to having congenital heart disease. Or because of other life issues.

Counselling provides a regular time and space for you to talk about your troubles and explore difficult feelings in a confidential setting.

A counsellor should respect your viewpoint while helping you to deal with specific problems, cope with crises, improve your relationships, or develop better ways of managing what life throws at you.

Alternatively, psychologists aim to reduce distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being. They work with people with mental or physical health problems; which might include anxiety and depression and adjustment to physical illness.

Seeking the help of a counsellor or psychologist can be crucial when it comes to ensuring people born with heart conditions live long, full and happy lives.

Types of counselling and therapy

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). A short-term talking treatment that has a practical approach to problem-solving. It changes patterns of thinking or behaviour that are behind people’s difficulties
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy. A structured therapy for people with moderate to severe depression. A highly structured and time-limited approach it is intended to be completed within 12–16 weeks
  • Brief Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT). DIT helps people by focusing on certain key aspects of their current relationship patterns
  • CBT Groups. A safe and supportive environment in which group members can practise their new learning
  • Mindfulness Groups. Providing a flexible set of skills to manage mental health and support wellbeing
  • Wellbeing Workshops. For example on topics like assertiveness, confidence building and relaxation
  • Behavioural Couples Counselling. An approach that can help people in a relationship with the emotional difficulties that can arise between partners. Especially when one or both people are depressed
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR). A type of therapy used to treat the symptoms of trauma.

An Exploration into Psychology – could you benefit? by Dr Liza Morton explores further how talking therapies might be helpful for people born with a heart condition.

MIND has further information explaining the different types of Talking Therapies + Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Find out more about what type of talking therapy for depression might be available through your local IAPT service.

How to access counselling and psychological services

  • If you attend a CHD Clinic, ask your specialist nurse if there are any psychological or emotional support services based at the hospital
  • Your GP should be able to refer you to the local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Service. These have been developed for adults in England. Search for your local IAPT Service online. Other arrangements are in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Ask your GP for the support options where you live
  • For more persistent or severe mental health issues, your GP can refer you for assessment by your local Adult Mental Health Service
  • If you are under 18, your GP should be able to refer you to The Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Service (CYP IAPT). Different arrangements are in place for Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland. Ask your GP about the available options where you live. Your GP can also refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Find out more in: Emotional Support Resources for Children and Young People. 
  • Local council and voluntary/charitable organisations that may provide counselling.Youth Counselling Services: Based in your local area, sometimes run by the local authority or by a charity. These vary across the country and in the age group that can access the service. Some will go up to 24 years, others up to 18 or 19 years. Quite often young people can refer themselves.

    School Counselling Services: Based at the school attended. These are well developed in Wales and Northern Ireland. There is more patchy provision in schools in England and Scotland.

    College or University Student Support Service: Based at the college or university attended. Your local Council usually lists local agencies that provide counselling on their website, alternatively, telephone them or ask at the local library.

    Other common types of services found are: Drug and Alcohol Counselling, Bereavement Counselling, Relationship Counselling and Palliative Care through Hospices. Some local MIND associations might provide counselling for general emotional/mental health issues.

    Some of these services may be free and others ask for a donation towards counselling, but this is usually on a sliding scale dependent upon income. The counselling could be time limited and there might be a waiting list.

  • If you are able to pay, there are many counsellors and psychotherapists that work privately. Costs are usually from £40 upwards an hour. It is important to check out that the counsellor/therapist is properly qualified. Here is a list of organisations that you can use to find counselling services in your area
  • Breathing Space Scotland offers an accessible first stop and listening service for people who are feeling down and depressed
  • Aware Northern Ireland is a National Charity that aims to support people who are experiencing depression

In Wales the Community Advice and Listening Line Mental Health Helpline can put you in the right direction in getting local help and support for depression.

Ways to de-stress and relax

Learning how to relax can be really helpful  for those times when we get anxious, panicky or feel overwhelmed


With your help, we’ve helped fund new and improved treatments for congenital heart disease. we opened the UK’s first dedicated Congenital Heart Research Centre. we’ve organised receptions at the House of Lords and House of Commons, a film première, concerts, parachute jumps, marathon runs, annual sponsored walks and masquerade balls. we ensure that adult CHD patients enjoy access to every opportunity, are free from discrimination, and are fully supported throughout their lives. we’ve staged annual conferences, regional patient information days and workshops throughout the UK. we’ve published a range of leaflets for CHD patients on a wide-range of topics. we’ve launched a Freephone patient helpline to provide practical advice, a listening ear, and emotional reassurance at times of stress. we’ve created online networks where congenital heart patients can connect with each other. we successfully applied for a Comic Relief grant to help develop mental health support services. we’ve contributed to adult congenital heart disease nurse training days and taken part in various study days and conferences for medical and health professionals. we’ve established a benevolent fund for members who are in financial hardship. we’ve organised residential weekends and outward bound holidays for teenagers and adults, providing congenital heart patients with the opportunity to meet and gain support from each other.

Just think what else we could do if you donate, fundraise or volunteer for us.