In terms of how it works, you first have to apply. From my experience, I went to the doctor to ask about what's the best counselling service, but unfortunately they weren't much help in terms of giving me places to go to. But, I'd still advise you to see the doctor first as a number one priority. In the end, both my mum and I had to go on our own hunt to get an application for NHS counselling. I had applied via a form and my parent talking on the phone. After a few weeks, I was put on a waiting list, which unfortunately was very long. As my condition was deteriorating, I had to go and find a private hypnotherapist, which helped me through a bit of counselling and visualisation work. Hypnotherapy isn't what you think - no one is trying to get you In a trance!
After a while, I was eventually given counselling on the NHS. I had initial meeting where I had to fill in forms and answer questions about my condition. At first, I didn't feel comfortable with the therapist that I was seeing, so I asked for someone different and one which was closer to my home town. It began with the therapist telling me a bit about herself and me having to fill in depression and anxiety forms. I was allowed to bring a family member with me and after explaining my experience in detail, which was very hard, my therapist decided to choose a therapy for me, which was CBT.
Each therapist you have on the NHS has a certain number of appointments they're allowed to make, before you move on to someone else. Each session with my therapists consisted of filling in depression and anxiety charts, risk assessments and a bit of chat before being set goals for CBT. You can read my CBT post, here. Each week I would go out and try my best to complete each goal, which was challenging to say the least!
After a while, I had to be moved to see another therapist, where the appointments were longer. There was still aspects of CBT, but more talking about the root causes and trying to change my mindset. The appointments didn't just take place at my local doctors practice, but she would come to the house if I couldn't make it to the practice. With some of CBT challenges, she would come with me. For example, if I had to catch a train. This was really helpful as I had someone to help me through it.
After almost two years in therapy and now taking medication, it was decided that I was well enough to leave, which I discussed in this post. Therapy may be hard in the beginning, because anxiety makes you want to run away from all social interaction possible. But, talking and exposure through CBT has been so beneficial. Please don't bottle up your feelings and please seek professional help if you feel you need it.
If you have any more questions about my experience with therapy, then feel free to ask.