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Researchers propose new mental health service model

Psychology Research Institute staff recently presented research findings to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont Castle as part of the Knowledge Exchanges Seminar Series (KESS).  The research team comprised Dr Karen Kirby, Orla McDevitt-Petrovic, Dr Orla McBride, Professor Mark Shevlin, Dr Donal McAteer, Dr Colin Gorman and Dr Jamie Murphy.

Dr Karen Kirby (project lead) presented the team's preliminary research findings on the effectiveness of Low Intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (LI-CBT), to inform service developers, policy makers, practitioners and academics of a potential solution to the current strain on Northern Ireland's mental health services.

The presentation highlighted the benefits of employing a new accredited workforce to support the emerging 'stepped-care' system in Northern Ireland, emphasising the role of early intervention and preventative mental health strategies in meeting the rise in demand for psychological therapies in communities across the province.

The preliminary findings from this longitudinal study (on-going since 2015) demonstrate that LI-CBT services provided by ‘Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners’ ('PWPs' - trained at Ulster, the sole accredited training provider on the island of Ireland) indicate that over the course of the therapy there was a significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression for 77% of the clients, and 48% had ‘recovered’, meaning that their levels of anxiety and depression were no longer problematic.

These rates are comparable to the government-funded evidenced-based services in England's IAPT service framework (where improvement is 62% and recovery 46%).

These findings provide the only available evidence of an effective mental health practitioner workforce at Primary/Community Care level in Northern Ireland. As such, the team proposes that PWPs are fit for purpose in modern mental health service reforms in Northern Ireland and that this workforce should be rolled out across the province to improve access to much needed evidence-based psychological therapies.

Further details on the KESS presentation which took place on 8th March 2017 can be accessed here