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NHS team remind North Cumbria residents that effective programmes of online therapy still available

Richard Thwaites

The team at the First Step Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service in North Cumbria are reminding people that they are still offering a range of effective programmes of online therapy.

Suitable for people experiencing mild to moderate depression, or anxiety problems such as worry or panic, computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (cCBT) can help you learn new skills to overcome the challenges you face, and improve your mental wellbeing. There are also new programmes to support people who are struggling with the changes brought about by Covid-19.

Richard Thwaites, Lead Consultant Clinical Psychologist at First Step, says: “We use a programme called SilverCloud, which you can download to your computer, tablet or mobile phone. You can use this anywhere, at any time that suits you, so it’s really convenient and user-friendly.

“Especially at the moment, when people are having to adapt to a new schedule as a result of COVID-19, you can be sure that cCBT will fit around whatever else is going on in your life at the moment.”

One person who has recently completed a SilverCloud cCBT course told the team: “This program has helped a lot; each module gave me a better understanding of my thoughts, feelings and definitely my triggers.” Another person added, “I’ve recently completed the program and can honestly say the more I got into it the more I took from it. Looking back over several weeks, I feel like a different person.”

People usually work through the modules over about eight weeks, which can be adapted to help with a range common problems like stress, anxiety, depression, and coping with a chronic illness.

This video from SilverCloud introduces the programme and shows you what you can expect.

Introduction to SilverCloud_Supported from SilverCloud Health on Vimeo.

Interactive activities in the modules help you to digest what you’re learning about yourself and put it into practice. Alongside the modules there’s also a journal to help you express how you are feeling, and relaxation exercises. Other activities and tools can be ‘unlocked’ by your Supporter if they think relevant as you progress through the course.

“People work through the modules themselves, but one of our Supporter staff will regularly review how they are doing and provide feedback, suggestions and extra advice based on what each person needs,” adds Richard.

“You can send messages to your Supporter about how you’re feeling, what you’re struggling with, or any questions you have. The replies from your Supporter are stored, so you can go back at any time to revisit what they said to you.

“Some people find that they prefer talking to their Supporter via messages on SilverCloud to talking to a therapist; there’s no pressure, as you can take as long as you want to write down your thoughts, and you can take all the time you need to process their reply.”

The modules have all been designed by clinical experts using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a very effective treatment for mental health problems. You can read more on the NHS website about how CBT works.

Richard says: “There is lots of evidence that SilverCloud’s cCBT programmes can be really effective for people who are trying to overcome problems like moderate anxiety or depression. That’s why we use them; we know that they work.

“Like any type of therapy, cCBT isn’t a good fit for everyone, but we see that people who are motivated to work through the modules get so much out of it. It empowers people to take charge of managing their mental health.”

One of the biggest benefits of cCBT is that after your course has finished, you can continue to apply the things you’ve learned to your daily life. This should make it less likely that your symptoms will return.

First Step IAPT is run by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW). Local residents can self-refer for support at https://www.cntw.nhs.uk/services/first-step/.

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