It’s good to talk

Sometimes when things get too much, a quiet chat can make all the difference. And generally the first people we would turn to are friends, family, or colleagues. But there are times when those informal talks aren’t enough. Times when we need something more to help us to recover our equilibrium. That’s where talking therapy can come into play.

Perhaps traditionally seen as an option for those suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression; taking therapy can take a number of forms. These include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), counselling, behavioural activation, and guided self help. This variety of options available enables people to receive the optimum therapy that will best suit themselves and their condition.

Whilst some therapies may work best in a face to face situation, in a number of instances talking therapy can be carried out over the phone, perhaps with the call being supplemented by work books and information sent to the home. That ability to carry out telephone talking therapies has proved to be extremely beneficial during lockdown. So much so that according to statistics released by the NHS a record 634,649 individuals completed a talking therapy course in the 2020/21 period. That is a rise of five percent on the previous year. And that’s only the start. The NHS long term plan aims to help 1.9 million adults with talking therapies by the year 2023/24, with a focus on long term conditions. This is in addition to the provision of private treatment options.

Not only did the number of people undergoing talking therapy rise year on year, the average number of sessions in a course of treatment also rose to 7.5 from 6.9 the previous year. Whether that rise in treatment length is due to patients requiring greater amounts of help, or simply the provision of phone sessions freeing up extra time is unknown. Certainly the fact that in the period in question 90% of people started treatment within six weeks of identifying a need, again a rise on the previous year, with 51.4% of those completing a course being seen to have recovered from anxiety or depression is to be commended. On the other hand, it has been estimated that the number of adults in England with depression has doubled since the start of Covid; revealing an even greater need for talking therapy provision.

It’s another example of the strain which health services across the board are facing. And it can at times seem as though no matter how many technical solutions are put in place to save time, that time is taken up in meeting additional patient needs. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look towards time saving solutions such as switching calls to a virtual assistant service, putting appointments online, or digitising patient notes. On the contrary, the more time can be saved in streamlining routine administration tasks, the better. But in the spirit of ‘physician heal thyself’ there are times when it pays to step back, to take time out to renew and refresh, or maybe just to talk.