Different types of counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and support groups, may help improve your mental health when you’re living with heart failure.

Heart failure is a chronic condition that may affect your physical, mental, and emotional health. But the relationship between mental health and heart failure may run both ways.

Research suggests that people living with heart failure are more likely to experience mental health challenges than people without the condition. For example:

  • 20–40% of people with chronic heart failure have depression
  • 20% of people ages 75 years and older with chronic heart failure have depression
  • 32% of people with heart failure have heightened levels of anxiety
  • 13% of people with heart failure have an anxiety disorder

Conversely, stress, fear, and other negative emotions can raise levels of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These can affect your blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, this can worsen heart diseases such as heart failure.

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of counseling and how they could form an integral part of your heart failure treatment plan.

If you have symptoms of a mental health condition, a healthcare professional may recommend counseling as part of your treatment plan. A qualified counselor can help you:

  • manage negative emotions and mood changes
  • adjust harmful thought patterns and behaviors
  • address communication challenges and interpersonal conflicts

Several types of counseling are used to help treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common type of counseling. It may help you identify and change harmful patterns in your thinking and behavior.

A 2023 research review suggests that CBT is effective at reducing anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances in people with heart failure.

The authors also note that CBT may have more advantages than medication because there’s less risk for side effects and negative drug interactions. It may also encourage people with heart failure to be more engaged in self-care.

Other types of counseling that may help include:

  • Interpersonal therapy: This approach may help you work through communication challenges and interpersonal conflicts.
  • Peer counseling or group therapy: These methods can connect you with other people who have experienced similar challenges.

Creating an emotional support network that includes family and friends could help you find ways to manage negative emotions. You might also want to consider joining an online or in-person support group for people with heart failure.

Many types of mental health professionals offer counseling, including:

  • psychologists
  • psychiatrists
  • psychiatric nurses
  • social workers
  • licensed professional counselors

Try to find a mental health professional who is:

  • Licensed to practice: Each state has its licensing requirements for psychologists, social workers, therapists, and counselors.
  • Covered by health insurance: If you have health insurance, your plan may cover only certain mental health services or specialists.
  • Experienced in treating people with chronic health conditions: A counselor may offer better support if they understand the challenges of living with heart failure or other chronic heart conditions.

You can learn about a counselor by:

It’s also important to have a good relationship with a counselor. If you find it hard to talk to them or don’t feel supported, you can look for someone else who may be a better fit for you.

Some mental health specialists offer counseling by phone or online. This may be called:

  • telehealth
  • telecounseling
  • telepsychology

Telehealth is becoming more integral to heart failure treatment plans. It may provide a more convenient, comfortable, and safe option than in-person counseling sessions. Other benefits of telehealth for heart failure treatment include:

  • check-ins between in-person appointments
  • quicker access to care
  • access to a wider range of healthcare services from one location

You can talk with a counselor to learn whether they offer telehealth services, or you can search online for telehealth providers. Your telehealth appointments may take place via phone, a video call app like Citrix or Zoom, email, or other web technologies.

Some health insurance plans provide more coverage for mental health care than others. If you have health insurance, contact your insurance provider to learn:

  • which mental health diagnoses, services, and specialists are covered
  • how much you’ll need to pay out of pocket toward your deductible before your insurance provider will cover the costs of your care
  • how much you’ll be charged in copay or coinsurance fees for each visit to your mental health specialist

You should also ask a counselor whether they accept your insurance.

If you don’t have health insurance or you otherwise find it difficult to afford counseling, you can:

  • Ask your counselor whether they offer sliding-scale fees: Some counselors charge lower fees or offer payment plans to self-payers or people with low incomes. If a counselor doesn’t work on a sliding scale, they may refer you to one who does.
  • Check with a local university, teaching hospital, or community health clinic: Some of these institutions offer free or low cost counseling.
  • Contact free hotlines for crisis support: If you’re having a mental health crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free at 988.

A doctor may know about other local resources that can help you access affordable mental health care.

What is the therapy of choice for heart failure?

CBT is a popular type of therapy that may help you identify, manage, and reduce negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with heart failure.

What exercises are good for heart failure?

According to the British Heart Foundation, good exercises for heart failure are aerobic activities that involve your whole body and increase your heart rate, such as walking. Light resistance training may also be beneficial. But it’s best to avoid strenuous exercises, such as weightlifting, and activities that involve holding your breath, such as swimming.

What can you do to help heart failure?

Treatment for heart failure typically includes a combination of therapies such as medications, lifestyle and dietary changes, device implantations, surgery, and counseling.

What is the order of therapy for heart failure?

There isn’t a specific order of therapy for heart failure. You and your healthcare team will create a treatment plan based on your unique needs and treatment goals.

Heart failure may negatively affect your mental health.

If you often feel sad, angry, afraid, hopeless, or emotionally numb, let a healthcare professional know. They may refer you to a mental health specialist.

Getting mental health care can help improve your mental well-being and quality of life. Taking care of your mental health may also have benefits for your heart.