Blogs 9 May

No Silver Bullet, but an Open Mind: The Right Mental Health Support

As the snap election begins to loom large, I await the flood of manifestos from parties selling their idea of a better future. More than ever, I’ll be hoping this includes transformational support for mental health.

Not that there is a silver bullet. Not one single solution that can address all the mental health issues stacking up in the Prime Minister’s in-tray. To assume that one type of therapy will work for everyone would be foolish and idealistic. People respond to different approaches and different methods of therapy and support at different times.

Not only that, they may also respond very differently to how the therapy is being delivered.

Some campaign ardently for face to face therapy and dismiss online counselling. At the same time, as we see daily, others would not go anywhere near a counsellor unless they were anonymous and receiving therapy via their phone or laptop.

The reality is that there is a therapy for everyone. Therapy is therapy irrespective of its delivery mechanism. There is a therapeutic alliance experienced in both face to face and online counselling.

This is why it’s important to provide help without being prescriptive. We need time to first explore what is needed before we can try a solution.
This is difficult in tight economic times in which a culture of risk-aversion and targets mean we are less able to respond flexibly and creatively to the issues before us.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we believe that digital services are a big part of the mental health solution, especially for early intervention. But we also know digital isn’t The Answer. Online counselling works, but only if the delivery is flexible. It must offer children, young people and adults a variety of routes to get to their destination, – CBT, humanistic therapy, solutions-based approaches – not just send everyone down a single prescribed road to be herded along an aisle of tick boxes and closed-ended programmes and asked to leave after their allotted time.

Digital services can be about a quick visit where a counsellor agrees coping strategies with someone who has a low-level mental health issue. But they should also be about long-term support. They are not just a quick fix for someone feeling a short-term pressure to be happy.

I hope the manifestos will reflect that there is no single approach to mental health; no single answer. Except to have an array of services – digital and face to face – and an open mind to discover what works for whom, and under what conditions.

Aaron Sefi 

MA (Couns)
Director, Business Development, XenZone