There is too little understanding by commissioners and providers of health services of the close relationship between, on the one hand, mental health problems and attachment difficulties and, on the other, couple relationship issues; as a result, couples who want help to address problems in their relationship too often find it difficult to access affordable support from health services. In line with NICE guidance and Department of Health policy relating to patient choice, couples who want help to address their relationship difficulties should be able to access a range of affordable NHS, local authority and voluntary sector counselling and therapy services.
How we are bringing about change
Increasing access to couples counselling and therapy
People who are depressed or anxious often find their relationships suffer. By the same token, relationship problems can sometimes lead to one or other partner becoming depressed or anxious.
TCCR has been instrumental in both developing the clinical practice of couple therapy for depression and ensuring that it was included in the interventions reviewed by NICE as part of the development of its clinical guideline on depression.
Couple therapy for depression often focuses on helping couples to:
- communicate more openly and clearly
- be more aware of their partner’s needs
- become less stuck – for example, repeating patterns in their relationships
- have a greater understanding of their partner and themselves
- manage feelings of anxiety and stress which arise from the challenges of their relationship and family life
- come to terms with life changes which might have triggered depression, such as becoming parents or losing a loved one.
However, despite Department of Health policy relating to patient choice, the inclusion of a particular treatment or intervention in NICE guidance doesn’t ensure that it is always available and TCCR is working to increase the availability of this form of therapy through primary care.
Our forthcoming briefing on couple counselling for parents in primary will argue why GPs and clinical commissioning groups should consider making couple counselling available through primary care settings.
Our Policy briefing - Relationship difficulties: stopping them from starting, stopping them from getting worse – sets out the research evidence showing the importance of intervening as early as possible to ensure that relationship problems are prevented from worsening, and thus avoiding the consequences for people’ mental health that relationship deterioration can bring about.