Relationships at risk from depression to get free counselling

Pioneering NHS scheme for couples and families depends on more funding, say experts and patients

The Government will today announce plans to introduce couples therapy on the NHS for the first time.

The move will see psychologists and counsellors appointed to work with couples whose relationship is in danger of being destroyed by depression or other mental problems.

From April, patients will be assessed and then offered a choice of individual or couples counselling under the government's programme to improve access to psychological therapies (IAPT). But while today's announcement by Health Secretary Andy Burnham will be broadly welcomed by experts who have long campaigned for couple and family therapy to be more widely available on the NHS, there is no extra money for the new therapists, training or the increased demand.

The Government is in the middle of a £173m investment programme to improve access to therapies for people suffering from common mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and panic disorders.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends that patients with mild to moderate conditions be offered step-based therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy as initial treatment, before medication is even considered.

The IAPT programme began after it was found only a quarter of Britain's six million depression sufferers were in treatment while prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs had spiralled. It is seen as part of a wider drive to help people back to work, improve the nation's well-being and reduce the pressure on the benefits system

The costs of mental illness in England were nearly £80bn in 2003. Depression and other stress-induced mental health problems are some of the most common reasons for people to be off work, according to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

Mel Merritt, from Relate, the UK's largest provider of relationship counselling, said: "We have been lobbying for the remit of IAPT to be extended and welcome any initiative which gives more couples access to counselling, but we wait to hear the details. We know that people who come to Relate have found that relationship counselling not only had a positive impact on them but also benefited their family life, parenting skills and their ability to cope with work."

Couples with problems that were not triggered by or developed into clinical depression or anxiety would not be eligible for NHS counselling.

Of the changes Mr Burnham said: "Trouble at home can lead to depression and anxiety and children can be caught up in the fallout. Professional support can help people rebuild relationships or separate amicably – that's why I want couples therapy to be more widely available on the NHS."

Nicola, 36, a project manager from York divorced in 1998 after four years of marriage. She has suffered episodes of severe depression and panic attacks since her teens but found it difficult to access psychological services. She said: "I think couples therapy would have been helpful during my marriage, though I don't know if it would have necessarily saved it. Anything that could help the partner to understand what they're dealing with and provide some support for would be useful. But there is no right way to approach somebody: everyone is unique.

"I am a bit cynical about how there will be enough therapists to deal with couples, when as an individual I could not even get on the waiting list."

Additional reporting by Paul Bignell

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
News
news
Sport
Lewis Hamilton with the Santander trophy after winning last year’s British Grand Prix
F1It's the race organisers who are to blame, apparently
News
peopleFormer Disney CEO isn't going to win any fans with this quote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

    Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test