Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Talk therapy' options replace medication

It's good to talk: Gabriel Byrne plays a psychotherapist in 'In Treatment'. A wide variety of talk therapies are available to users.
It's good to talk: Gabriel Byrne plays a psychotherapist in 'In Treatment'. A wide variety of talk therapies are available to users.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

People with mental health problems or emotional difficulties can wait six months to two years to access 'talking therapy' depending on where they live.

A survey was carried out by the watchdog the Mental Health Commission to find out what is available in the 13 super catchment areas into which public services are divided across the country.

It pointed out that patients in need of urgent referral to therapy are prioritised and that this could take two days to two weeks.

Health services here have long been criticised for not giving more patients the choice of talking therapy.

The bias was towards offering medication or other traditional treatments to people with mental illness and those who are going through a bad time.

During talk therapy, a trained therapist listens to the patients to try to help them to find their own answers to problems.

The report found that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is now available in nine out of 10 of the catchment areas. Its aim is to help the patient think less negatively and offer coping strategies.

It also revealed that the proportion of catchment areas providing other talking therapies varied.

They included bereavement counselling (31pc), supportive counselling (62pc), integrative and humanistic psychotherapy (23pc), behaviour therapy (46pc), brief psychodynamic psychotherapy (23pc) and family therapy (23pc).

The availability of other therapies include anxiety management (46pc) and solutions for wellness (15pc), psychodynamic psychotherapy (38pc), wellness recovery action plan (15pc), interpersonal psychotherapy (38pc), stress management (15pc), psychoanalytical psychotherapy (15pc), addiction counselling (31pc) and anger management (eight per cent).

"In addition, service users had been vocal in their criticism of the over-reliance of services on medical interventions in mental health."

Looking at the 13 catchment areas as a whole, a wide variety of psychological therapies was potentially available to service users.

"The provision of psychological therapies within the 13 super catchment areas had a patchwork-quilt appearance.

"This raised a legitimate question as to whether the provision of therapies was driven by the needs of service users or by the available expertise of existing service providers."

Money may have been spent developing particular therapeutic expertise without any real consideration of how best to use it on the ground.

The Commission also questioned if the best use was made of existing expertise in the health service.

These would include trained addiction counsellors, behaviour therapists and those with skills in other therapies.

The report also found that detailed information on what services had been accessed was seriously lacking. Only North Lee in Cork, Limerick, Clare and Tipperary had this information.

The Mental Health Commission stressed the need for specific policies covering these therapies, covering issues such as how they can be accessed, management of waiting times, funding, training of staff and how they can be supervised.

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