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Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)

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by Shikainah Champion-Samuel (subscribe)
A great believer in exploring the off beat, non-touristy things hidden inside every city.
Published July 28th 2015
Yes, it's free and no- there's no catch
Free psychological therapy. Yes, you read right! There is this Government funded initiative running under the aegis of the NHS (so therefore at no cost to the public).

Called IAPT, which stands for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, this was borne out of years of research by psychologist Professor David Clark and economist Lord Layard. The issue at hand was what are known as common mental health problems like depression, panic, phobias, trauma etc. to name a few. Suffering from such mental health issues has a cost attached to it at both a personal level (feeling like a failure, hopeless and sometimes suicidal) and at a societal level (lost work days, pay outs in terms of statutory sick pay, repeated GP appointments, years of being on antidepressants etc. to name a few).

What had come out of the research findings was that these disorders responded well to some robust sessions of therapy and people were able to get back to the business of living the lives they wanted to, in the first place. Exiting the revolving door to one's GP, getting into work etc. proved a good argument that IAPT would almost 'pay for itself'. However, the number of qualified therapists was few and waiting times were too long. So, in 2007, the Government decided to roll out IAPT which sought to address the above.

Now a national programme across England, the programme enabled mental health professionals to undergo specialist training in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and offer the same to people with the above mentioned mental health problems, through the respective IAPT sites. As the name suggests, since the ethos of IAPT is to improve access for people, it is not unusual to find IAPT 'clinics' being run in community centres, faith venues like churches and GP surgeries. This helps remove the stigma of having to come to a formal hospital setting. Even the words around such therapies have been very carefully adapted and so it is not unusual to find such sessions being called 'well being sessions' etc.

To refer to IAPT, one does not need to wait for their GP to do it. Self-referrals are encouraged and all one has to do is to find their local IAPT number and opt-in. The interventions are essentially CBT-heavy as this has proven to have the best evidence base. However, most sites are now expanding into other therapies as well on offer like supportive counselling, mindfulness, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and the like. As massive cohorts of IAPT qualified therapists have been trained in the recent years, the waiting times to receive such specialist therapy has reduced dramatically overall, (though it probably would differ based on the area where one lives). The duration of therapy is also short term. Should longer term support be required, one could expect to be sign-posted to an appropriate service. Building on this success, there are now IAPT services being rolled out for Children and Young Persons as well.

Source: Wikimedia Commons


Additionally, every IAPT site also has an Employment Specialist working alongside the clinical team, in order to help service-users with the nitty-gritties of finding work or perhaps be supported to get back to their job again. There are also other skills-based workshops on self confidence, sleeping better etc. that are on offer by most IAPT services.

The video link explains the general ethos of IAPT. As regards your own local IAPT, your best bet would be to ask your GP surgery for their number. You can then call in yourself.

So, while this does not fall under the usual 'how to' list that WEN has, it is heartening to know that such help is not just the purview of the rich and famous who have their own therapists, but available to all who would like to improve their emotional well-being.

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Why? To get help for mental health problems
Phone: Ask your GP surgery for your local IAPT number
Where: All over England
Cost: Free
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