Talking therapies have become more important than ever in the aftermath of the pandemic—1,961,096 appointments took place across England in 2021 

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The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) has reported that a record number of patients underwent cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) across England last year, with nearly 2 million appointments taking place in 2021.

‘This is the highest number of CBT appointments since records began, with a total of 1,961,096 appointments registered overall for the calendar year 2021’, the RCPsych said.

The college emphasised that CBT can help with many different mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, panic, phobias, eating disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Pandemic aftermath—talking therapies more important than ever

Dr Paul Blenkiron, Consultant Psychiatrist and author of the RCPsych’s patient information resource on CBT, said: ‘There is a high demand for cognitive behavioural therapy in the aftermath of the pandemic. With all the uncertainties that continue in the world, effective talking treatments like CBT are more important than ever.’

The college has updated its patient information resource, and hopes to highlight how the information is for ‘anyone who wants to know more about cognitive behavioural therapy.’ It looks at how CBT works, why it is used, its effects and side effects, and alternative treatments.

Dr Blenkiron said that talking therapies can be used alongside other treatments to ‘help people learn new skills to keep themselves feeling well.’  

Good mental health and wellbeing a priority

CBT is available on the NHS via GP referral or via self-referral through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) scheme, which began in 2008 and features in the NHS long term plan. The NHS long term plan aims to see the ‘number of people with anxiety disorders or depression who can access talking therapies through IAPT increase by an additional 380,000 per year to reach 1.9 million by 2023–2024.’

One benefit of this, NHS England said, was ‘supporting people to find or stay in work’, as good work contributes to good mental health, and IAPT services ‘can better contribute to improved employment outcomes.’

The Government has committed to mental health services receiving a growing share of the NHS budget, worth in real terms at least a further £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24, NHS England said.

Recently, draft guidance from NICE has recommended that people in England with mild depression should first be offered behavioural therapy or group exercise instead of medication.

NICE said that antidepressant medication should not be offered routinely as a first-line treatment for less severe depression, ‘unless that is the person’s preference’, adding that ‘group cognitive behavioural therapy could be offered as a first treatment.’

This article originally appeared on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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