Talking therapies are better for you than medication if you suffer from anxiety or mild to moderate depression. But their effectiveness depends largely on the relationship with the therapist.
Sounds a bit obvious perhaps but a professor of counselling psychology, Bruce E Wampold, says his research show that, in addition to having a customised treatment plan, this is what makes a good therapist:
- a sophisticated set of interpersonal skills
- building trust, understanding and belief from the client
- an alliance with the client
- an acceptable and adaptive explanation of the client’s condition
- a treatment plan that is allowed to be flexible
- is influential, persuasive and convincing
- monitors patient progress
- offers hope and realistic optimism
- is aware of client’s characteristics in context
- is reflective
- relies on research evidence
- continually improves through personal development
So with an effective therapist psychotherapy can work better than medication and with anxiety and moderate depression has better outcomes in the long-term with fewer relapses. This has been the argument for using psychotherapy in the UK NHS for these conditions and now Norway has issued guidelines saying psychological interventions should be tried before medication.
Of course GPs and medics are under pressure from the pharmaceutical companies and there aren’t enough therapists available in the NHS leading to long waiting lists but talking therapies should be the first intervention to try.
And the evidence is that people are now more open about mental health problems and more prepared to discuss it rather than try and maintain a stiff upper lip.