People living with dementia may benefit from psychological therapies available on the NHS if they suffer from anxiety or depression, research has found.
The study, led by University College London researchers, examined data from the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service for people with dementia who also had clinically significant anxiety or depression.
The researchers found that among people with dementia, the treatment proved to be beneficial. Some 63% of them saw a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety, after completing treatment through IAPT. Around 40% recovered completely.
In a control group of people who did not have dementia, 70% of participants saw an improvement in symptoms and 47% recovered.
Our member Danuta Lipinska, who works with people with dementia, said:
“It’s heartening to see the results of this study and the hope that it can bring to many living with dementia.
“We know the accompanying experience of depression and anxiety can exacerbate the experience of dementia related symptoms, which then, in turn, increase the depression and anxiety.
“Having counselled women and men living with a dementia for over 30 years, mainly in private practice, I have seen first-hand the benefits of talking therapy as it interrupts this ongoing cycle and improves wellbeing,” said Danuta, who wrote the book Person Centred Counselling for People with Dementia: Making Sense of Self.
She added: “The benefits to partners and family caregivers is also huge as the person they support experiences an enhanced quality of life. I sincerely hope that this study will highlight the need to increase the paid appointment of qualified therapists in local services to ensure real access where people live.”
Previous studies estimate that 38% of people with mild dementia are affected by depression and anxiety.
The new study, published in eClinicalMedicine, is the first to assess whether talking therapies delivered within healthcare settings might be helpful to relieve symptoms.
Lead author Georgia Bell said: “This is the largest ever study to investigate outcomes of psychological therapies in people living with dementia. Our findings suggest that while people with dementia are less likely to improve or recover than those without dementia, psychological therapies offered in primary care mental health services can be beneficial for them.
“Consequently, our findings support the use of IAPT to treat anxiety and depression in people with dementia. We hope this study will have implications for encouraging referrals and adaptations to increase access and enhance outcomes for people living with dementia.”
Read the full research paper.
Research is important for clients, for practitioners and politically to continue to demonstrate that counselling changes lives.
“The clients’ perspective has to be at the heart of this research”
David Sanmartino's PhD research project is funded by York St John University, BACP and UKCP.
Winner of our 2022 BACP new researcher award announced
Elizabeth Li, a third-year PhD student, won the award for her study into the perspectives and experiences during therapy of young people with depression, through the lens of epistemic trust.