We’re calling for more choice of psychological therapy services through the NHS for people seeking mental health treatments.

Matt Smith-Lilley, our Policy and Engagement Lead (Mental Health), said it was vital people are offered the most effective therapy and not just the treatment that is available.

And he said that the skills and expertise of our members could be employed to expand the NHS workforce, deliver a greater choice of therapy, and help meet the demands on its services.

Matt was responding to the publication of the NHS Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression Workforce Census.

Choice of therapy

He said: “We’ve long campaigned for an expansion of choice of the psychological therapies that people can access – and we make that call again.

“We want to see a range of interventions so clients can make an informed choice about what they feel works best for them, and an increase in the availability and accessibility of services so they can begin psychological therapies within 28 days of referral.

“Our members and the counselling professions need to be at the heart of that.

“There are thousands of highly-trained counsellors and psychotherapists who could help meet the demand for services and ensure a choice of therapies is available for the public.”

The NHS Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression Workforce Census showed that the counselling workforce has grown from 801 in 2019 to 929 in 2022, a 16% rise. However, the counselling workforce peaked at 1,006 in 2021 and has dropped by 8% since then.

More than two-thirds (69%) of staff time is spent delivering cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), with counselling for depression accounting for 13% of time spent working with service users and 8% delivering eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Room for improvement

Matt said: “We’re encouraged to see that the number of counsellors working within services has increased by 16% since 2019.

“However, we're aware there was an 8% drop between 2021 and 2022 and we’re looking at that to understand why and to avoid it being repeated in future years.

“And while it’s encouraging to see there’s also more choice of interventions being made available for service users, the census clearly shows there’s still room for improvement in making choice of intervention for all service users a reality.

“It’s an aim we’re committed to achieving.”