behavioural therapy via computer to be available to depressed
by Angela Hussain
computer-based form of cognitive behavioural therapy will, from
next month, become available to patients in England with depression
and anxiety, the health secretary Patricia Hewitt announced yesterday.
Ms Hewitt said that over the next two years every primary care trust
in England will be required to provide "computerised cognitive
behavioural therapy" (CCBT) to patients with depression, phobias
or severe anxiety.
The software, which the government says will be an alternative to
medication, is part of a national improving access to psychological
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
last year approved two CCBT programmes for the NHS - Fear Fighter
for people who have phobias or panic attacks, and Beating the Blues
for treating people with mild to moderate depression.
The government says the software will mean patients can benefit
from cognitive behavioural therapy in a greater number of settings,
such as the home, a library or a GP surgery.
Ms Hewitt said: "We want to offer patients even greater choice
over how, when and where they are treated. Being able to access
the right kind of therapy, instead of just being prescribed medication,
is central to this vision for patients.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity, Mind
said CCBT will “bring therapy to the doorstep of users”
by making it easy to access especially for people who live in remote
“Its immediacy will benefit people who have been waiting months
or even years to see a therapist," he added.
"However, this method of delivery will not suit everyone. It
is important that there is a choice of options."
Critics, however, say CCBT is dehumanising and they question its
Halford, a clinical psychologist working in London said: "CCBT
dehumanises therapeutic intervention, with much research indicating
that it's the therapeutic relationship [between a therapist and
client] that mediates much distress and can influence outcome.”
department of health is telling primary care trusts that they are
"expected to offer" CCBT by March 31.
PCTs, which have not been given extra funds to implement CCBT, are
being advised to ensure "appropriately trained" staff
are available to provide CCBT.
guidance on CCBT (pdf), issued in March 2006
1, 2006: Computerised cognitive behaviour therapy recommended for
depression, panic and phobia - therapy can be delivered on a
PC, over the internet or via the telephone
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