Eight new ‘digitally enabled therapies’ have been launched for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, intended for use on the NHS.
Online mental health treatment offerings have been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
Combined, the therapies — which also address PTSD and body dysmorphia — have the potential to help more than 40,000 people, according to NICE.
According to NHS Digital, one in six people report having a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week in England.
With a high demand for NHS talk therapies and some people currently waiting up to six weeks to access help, it is hoped that the help of these digital tools can ease the burden on healthcare and provide support more quickly.
“Our rapid review of these eight technologies has shown them to hold promise,” said Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital assessment at NICE.
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People will only be able to use each of the therapies (some of which are already in use) after a formal assessment with an NHS Talking Therapies therapist, as they may not be the right choice for everyone, NICE points out. When appropriate, they should also be delivered with ongoing support from a practitioner or therapist.
While the eight therapies have been conditionally recommended, more evidence remains to be provided.
“Developed using proven CBT methods, they have all demonstrated the potential to provide effective treatment for the many thousands of people living with these conditions,” adds Mark Chapman.
“We want these new treatment options to be available for people to use as soon as possible and we also want to make sure they are clinically effective and represent good value for the NHS. The additional evidence gathered during this period will help us do that.
“We also want to hear what people involved in this field think – both clinicians and the people who will use these digital technologies. We know that CBT can work well for many people and we know that digitally assisted technology can help the NHS to support people faster.”
In addition to a faster service, the digital therapies must offer help that is more in line with people’s personal needs in terms of flexibility, time and location.
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“Digital technology can transform the experience of people with mental illness. It can be incredibly isolating to be on a long waiting list for in-person treatment. You may know help is coming, you just don’t know when,” says Elizabeth Mullenger, lay specialist in the NICE committees.
“Having access to digital therapy can help prevent this feeling of loneliness. Sometimes people need the most support in the middle of the night or after a busy day at work and don’t know where to turn. Having access to digital therapy can give people the help they need, when they need it.
“These technologies allow us to take charge of our treatment and gain a sense of autonomy as we navigate our own journey towards positive mental health.”
Professor Dame Til Wykes, member of the specialist committee and Head of the School of Mental Health and Psychological Sciences at King’s College London, added: “Digital therapies can provide welcome extra help for people diagnosed with anxiety or depression. to face-to-face contact, either in person or virtually.
“But we don’t know enough about who will improve and who needs extra help.”
While these apps hold much “promising,” as with any form of mental health care, they may not be beneficial to everyone in need, which NICE has acknowledged.
Dr. Hana Patel and mental health coach points out, “Online and remote counseling and therapy have really taken off since the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing more people to access affordable therapy. These online therapy apps may be right for some people and not for others.
“I think the most important thing is the rode for access to the apps in the first place, as some mental illnesses mean people may not be well enough to participate in online therapy, as there is an element of self-motivation and access to the app, and they may need intensive psychiatric treatment necessary.
“Certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, can be treated online, using therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), while other more complex mental and psychiatric conditions require in-person therapy and treatment.”
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The likely preference of the person’s demographic may also play a role in who is receptive to digital help.
“Age may also affect satisfaction and preference of the type of therapy – face-to-face or online. Younger clients who may be more comfortable with distance communication may prefer this and feel more able to have an open discussion, while others may prefer a face-to-face consultation or session, as that may be the driving force behind seeking and needing therapy in the first place,” says Dr. Patel.
“Some people may have mobility issues or find it difficult to access a face-to-face therapy session due to family, work life and this can be an easy way to access help when they need it.”
While the benefits of the new online therapies are clear, there are also pros and cons to consider.
“If the app is a text only app, then the therapist may not be able to see the patient/client’s body language, hear their voice or see what they look like – all of which is information captured during a psychiatric examination and that can help lead to a certain mental health diagnosis,” explains Dr. Patel.
“It can also be difficult for some people to communicate through text how they are feeling, and can lead to misunderstandings in things being said between the client and the therapist.”
Dr. Patel adds: “For clients/patients who are not feeling well or in crisis, perhaps self-harming or suicidal, online therapy is not the best way to go as these online apps are not set up or equipped to deal with a mental health crisis. to go. ”
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The technologies conditionally recommended by NICE include:
For depression: three online CBT programs Beat the blues, written off And Space of Depression (Silver cloud) as treatment options
For body dysmorphic disorder (BDD): Perspectives with support from a high-intensity therapist trained in the treatment of BDD
For generalized anxiety symptoms or unspecified anxiety disorder: Beat the blues And Space from fear (SilverCloud) with support from a psychological well-being therapist or a high-intensity therapist
For post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): iCT-PTSD And Spring with support from a high-intensity therapist trained in the treatment of PTSD
For social anxiety disorder: iCT-SAD with support from a high-intensity therapist trained in treating social phobia
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