NHS psychological therapists enable four in 10 people to recover

NHS psychological therapists are helping more than 40 per cent of people to recover from depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

The national Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, started by the previous government in October 2008, was set up to ‘cure’ 450,000 people with depression and anxiety, and help many return to work.

A study from earlier in the year states that 44% of 12,388 people who completed their cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based intervention recovered

This result shows that the programme is “delivering” says Gyles Glover, one of the study’s researchers from the North East Public Health Observatory which analysed data from 32 IAPT sites.

Some high-profile psychologists have claimed that CBT is a’quick fix’ and ‘does not work’

For the study, data was taken from people who had an initial assessment between October 2008 to September 2009, the first year of the IAPT programme.

However, only 2% of people not in work returned to work during the course of their treatment, the study found. But researchers stressed the presumption was that people would be able to find employment after completing their therapy, not during it.

The most common conditions treated were depressive episode (29%), mixed anxiety and depressive disorder (29%), generalised anxiety disorder (18%) and recurrent depressive disorder (7%). Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and family loss each accounted for 2%.

Patients either underwent high-intensity and low-intensity CBT-based treatment.High intensity treatment was CBT, followed by counselling. Low-intensity treatment included self help, psychoeducational groups, behavioural activation, computerised CBT and structured exercise. Some interpersonal therapy and couple therapy were also provided.

Recovery was broadly defined as the proportion of patients with symptoms at the start who have lost them by their treatment.

The effectiveness of treatment varied substantially between the 32 sites.

Mr Glover said: “The most exciting aspect of our study is that we can understand which sites which are doing well and which are not – this can help those sites doing less well to take remedial action.“

“Although not many people found work during treatment, the presumption is that once people finish treatment, this is when they will go and look for work. This was beyond the scope of this study.”

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