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New report shows effectiveness of Counselling in Primary Care

By Reporter - 07th Jul 2022

Counselling in Primary Care (CIPC) is very effective in addressing depression and anxiety among clients, according to a report published by the HSE.

Changing Lives for the Better, a national report on the impact of CIPC, is the first research report of its kind.

It has demonstrated the effectiveness of the service and identified key recommendations for the CIPC service. Since CIPC was established in 2013 almost 150,000 clients have been referred to the service. 2,824 clients participated in this research. CIPC is a free service, available to GMS patients with mild-to-moderate mental and emotional issues after a referral from their GP.

Most clients who attended counselling experienced anxiety (81 per cent of participants) and/or depression (60 per cent of participants). Key findings show that after counselling 72 per cent of clients had improved or recovered and symptoms reduced significantly. 96 per cent of clients reported that counselling was beneficial and showed improvements in their overall physical, and mental health as well as in their quality of life.

Participants were more able to work and engage in social activities after counselling and counselling helped to reduce suicidal thoughts and feelings.

GPs also view CIPC as effective: A national survey of 378 GPs who referred patients to CIPC found that 80 per cent considered counselling beneficial to their patients and effective in dealing with patients’ problems.

CIPC may also help to reduce the burden on other services as the GPs surveyed considered when CIPC is available for their patients, demand for GP visits lessen and referral to other services may reduce.

Clients reported high levels of trust in and satisfaction with CIPC counsellors and their ability to create a trusting relationship (93 per cent), work on their important issues (94 per cent), help resolve their psychological difficulties (88 per cent), and adopt a therapeutic approach that suited the client (92 per cent).

A follow-up study at six and 12 months showed that the benefits of counselling continued up to one year after counselling had ended.

With increased resources, many more people could benefit, according to the report. It recommended CIPC should be accessible to more people and eligibility for the service should be expanded beyond those who hold a GMS card. However, if CIPC is to expand, more resources are needed to ensure that the quality and effectiveness of the service is maintained and to prevent waiting lists from becoming too long.

Speaking following the publication of the report the Minister for Mental Health and Older Adults, Mary Butler, said: “Sláintecare recognises the importance of mental health to overall health and well-being and in particular timely access and the ‘right intervention at the right time’. The HSE’s Counselling in Primary Care service helps to achieve this objective.

“It demonstrates how mental health services can be professionally and efficiently delivered in an accessible manner at primary care level. It is designed to be accessed at an early stage when individuals are struggling with emotional and psychological issues and in so doing helps to prevent problems developing and may reduce unnecessary use of secondary mental health services.”

Ms Yvonne O’Neill, HSE National Director, Community Operations, said: “The findings of this report have significant implications when considering the future direction and development of mental health services as outlined in Sláintecare and the national Mental Health Policy, Sharing the Vision. The resounding message from clients and GPs alike is that CIPC is a much-valued service, which positively impacts the mental health and well-being of those who attend.”

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