Health secretary Patricia Hewitt is to re-examine the government’s emphasis on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
The promise came after delegates at a mental health conference told her they wanted more choice of treatments.
Speaking at last week’s Mind annual conference, Hewitt admitted there was “clearly a strong sense here that there’s too much emphasis on CBT”. She said she would “take that back and discuss it with colleagues,” but emphasised that the talking treatment had a strong evidence base and would be welcomed by many people.
But a delegate told Hewitt the government’s emphasis on CBT was having negative effects on other longer-term psychological therapies and suggested psychotherapy departments were being closed down as a result. Another said service users wanted a greater choice than just “CBT or drugs”.
Hewitt said she accepted that some people believed the government’s emphasis on CBT was just “some ploy to deny access to other therapies” but insisted it was driven by evidence provided by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
She said: “Of course there are going to be people for whom long-term psychotherapy is the right course and as far as possible we should be giving people the choice. But we’ve got to base these judgments on the clinical evidence available. This isn’t being driven by politicians.”
Hewitt also said that “we’ve not done enough nationally in terms of guidance for mental health services for deaf people. That’s something I will take back and have a look at with colleagues.”
Meanwhile, psychiatrist and Institute of Psychiatry professor Graham Thornicroft told the conference that mental health groups should come together to set up a joint coalition to tackle stigma and discrimination.
Mind chief executive Paul Farmer had earlier told delegates the charity had a major bid in with funders to set up a national anti-stigma publicity campaign. Fellow charity Rethink has already run campaigns in Norwich and Northern Ireland.
The government and cognitive behavioural therapy
Guidance issued last week by the Department of Health reminded primary care trusts that they must make computerised CBT available to people with depression and anxiety from this week.
Computerised CBT is an online system of questions and answers that allows users to re-evaluate their problems. The department is also currently testing the use of CBT for people with mild to moderate mental health problems in two pilot sites, Newham in London, and Gateshead.
Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Implementation Guidance
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