Dispensing assistant Megan has a question for technician Vicky.
“In my technician course, it mentions talking therapies alongside medication such as antidepressants for conditions like depression and anxiety,” Megan starts. “I thought that meant counselling, but when I googled it, a whole list came up!”
“Oh yes,” replies Vicky. “CBT, family therapy, interpersonal therapy, mindfulness, there are so many types.”
“But are they all basically the same thing? And if not, how? And when would each one be used?” Megan asks.
The term “talking therapies” covers a whole range of interventions:
Counselling is probably the best known and involves an individual talking to a specially trained counsellor to get their thoughts in order. It is particularly useful for people who are generally healthy but are experiencing a crisis, for example, a bereavement, serious illness, relationship breakdown or infertility
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) aims to move individuals away from unhelpful behaviour patterns and into a more positive way of thinking. It is often advocated for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as there is a significant amount of supporting evidence. It can be delivered in one-to-one sessions, via online courses, or there are many self help books on the topic
Family therapy involves one or more therapists working with a whole household so they better understand the problems being experienced by their loved ones – such as, substance abuse, separation, sudden or chronic illness and behavioural issues – and so are able to communicate and work through them
Relationship counselling, sometimes known as couples therapy, sees both partners talking about what has gone wrong between them, learning about what the other needs and working on changing things to improve the situation
Group therapy involves several people who have a problem in common – such as alcoholism – working with a therapist on a sessional basis to support and advise each other, and reduce the sense of isolation
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is generally used for depression sufferers to help them identify and address problems that they are having in their close relationships
Behavioural activation encourages individuals, often those with depression, to adopt a more positive attitude and approach activities they are avoiding, for example getting into the habit of planning if this has been difficult and not doing so has held them back
Mindfulness supports people in focusing on their thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed, and is helpful for a range of problems from depression and stress to anxiety and addiction. It is sometimes combined with CBT or techniques such as meditation.
A problem shared is a problem halved goes the popular saying, but sometimes it can be difficult to open up. Talking to a professional is a potential solution, bringing with it the benefits of a therapist’s experience and expertise, a non-judgemental and empathic listening ear with a degree of detachment, and, importantly, confidentiality. In some areas it is possible to self-refer for certain talking therapies on the NHS, with a referral needed otherwise. Waiting lists can be lengthy however, but there is usually an option to speed up the process by paying privately.