Expert calls for fully funded National Psychotherapy Service for Ireland

One of the country’s leading clinicians and academics has called on the HSE to introduce a fully funded national psychotherapy service, which he says would be both an effective and cost effective way to treat a wide range of Ireland’s current mental health problems.Prof. Alan Carr of University College Dublin said a review which he has just completed into the effectiveness of psychotherapy shows unequivocally that it works.

The scientific evidence from hundreds of controlled studies involving thousands of cases shows unequivocally that psychotherapy works. Prof. Alan Carr, who is Director of UCD’s Doctoral Training Programme in Clinical Psychology says that psychotherapy is an effective treatment for an extensive range of psychological problems associated with physical illness and major life stresses in both adults and children. It should also be available to help people adjust to physical illnesses, and cope with chronic pain and fatigue and to treat adjustment problems associated with developmental disabilities including intellectual disability and autistic spectrum disorder.

Speaking at the official launch of his report in Dublin this afternoon (June 25, 2007) Prof. Carr said that the evidence showed that psychotherapy was not only effective but cost effective as those who availed of the service used fewer other medical services at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.They are hospitalised less than those who do not receive psychotherapy and it could reduce attendance at hospital A & E Departments. So developing psychotherapy services within the HSE makes good sense in terms of patient care and it also makes good financial sense. Psychotherapy keeps people out of hospital. HSE psychotherapy service structures require development.There should be psychotherapists on all primary care teams.There should be more psychotherapists in secondary and tertiary care systems.

Prof. Carr said that the average success rate for treated cases ranged from 65% – 72%. He said psychotherapy should be offered as rapidly as possible, with short waiting times and recommended that within the HSE and other health service organisations, psychotherapy services should be developed in primary, secondary and tertiary care settings.Since psychotherapy has also the potential to cause significant harm in a small proportion of cases, he recommended that psychotherapy only be offered by those appropriately trained and qualified and that psychotherapists employed in the HSE and other psychotherapy services be registered with the Irish Council for Psychotherapy.

Dr. Brion Sweeney, consultant psychiatrist specialising in substance abuse with the HSE, psychotherapist and Chair of the Irish Council for Psychotherapy, which commissioned the research, said that to be successful at least six months treatment with a well trained psychotherapist was required for a number of conditions.He said that Prof. Carr’s review suggested that we need to broaden the scope of provision from brief interventions using counsellors to more complex interventions which psychotherapists are best placed to deliver.

  • Alan Carr is professor and director of clinical psychology training at University College Dublin and has a clinical practice at the Clanwilliam Institute in Dublin.He has been involved in psychotherapy for 30 years in Ireland, Canada and the UK and has an international research and scholarship profile in psychotherapy.  Prof. Carr has written over 20 books and 200 publications and presentations in the fields of clinical psychology and psychotherapy.
  • The Irish Council for Psychotherapy has been regulating the training and professional standards of psychotherapists for the last 15 years.It maintains a register of over 1,000 qualified psychotherapists. Accreditation as a psychotherapist generally requires at least seven years of training, a primary degree, a foundation year and three years part-time training in one of the psychotherapeutic disciplines.