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British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy Declare Conversion Therapy Unethical

The unusual practice of attempting to “convert” homosexuals to heterosexuality has been officially deemed unethical by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). The group sent letters to its 30,000 members condemning the practice, citing the World Health Organisation’s stance that these therapies can severely harm an individual’s mental and physical health. This decision follows the case of Lesley Pilkington, a Christian therapist who offered conversion therapy to an undercover journalist, and the governor of California Jerry Brown’s decision to ban the practices in his state. Numerous human rights organisations have opposed the practice, and the BACP’s updated guidelines bring the dangers of conversion therapy to light.

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is essentially a “pray the gay away” treatment, in which ordinarily Christian organisations attempt to “correct” an individual’s sexuality through counselling or religious practices. The American Psychological Association’s 2007 review of the research into these and similar therapies found that there were very few methodologically sound studies on the topic, but that these all provided evidence that efforts to change sexual orientation are ineffective. There is insufficient evidence to say that it’s directly harmful, but there is a wide store of research which states that prejudice from within society causes harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. For example, those who are rejected by their parents or caregivers are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

Many people mistakenly thought that conversion therapy was a purely American affair, but the case of Lesley Pilkington brought the issue to the forefront in the UK. She offered the controversial treatment to an undercover journalist working for the Independent. A spokesman for the BACP stated that they’d assumed that the existing guidelines regarding equality and only working in the client’s best interest would have ruled out the therapy. Pilkington was removed from their member’s list, and her appeal was declined in May this year.

This case taught the BACP to tighten up their guidelines and take the threat of conversion therapy more seriously. A survey conducted in 2009 showed that 200 out of 1,300 therapists had tried to change a patient’s sexuality at least once, and 55 of them were still offering the service. Pilkington’s case surfaced in 2010, but the organisation was unable to change their guidelines until the appeal had been resolved. The UK Council for Psychotherapy updated its guidelines just after the case emerged, and wholly support the BACP’s recent decision.

Almost every counsellor agrees that conversion therapy is extremely unethical and potentially damaging. The main issue is that a therapist who tries to alter somebody’s sexuality is implicitly assuming that their homosexual desires constitute a mental illness, and should be corrected. The BACP state that “There is no scientific, rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify within a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual.”

Nobody should assume that his or her sexuality needs to be changed or altered in any way, but that doesn’t mean that LGBT individuals never need counselling. The ignorant, pig-headed attitude embodied by any therapist who offers conversion therapy can actually cause a variety of issues. If you or your loved one needs support because of homophobia, trouble with coming out, or any other LGBT issue, we are here to help you. We’ll give you an overview of your options for free, and can conduct assessments to determine the level of care you need. Stop by our Luton offices or get in touch with us today and see how we can help you!

Telephone Therapy Found to be as Effective as Face-to-Face for Most People

New research conducted in the east of England has found that cognitive behavioural therapy is just as effective over the phone as it is face-to-face. This means that if you’re unable to meet a therapist in person or the cost of face-to-face psychotherapy is preventing you from accessing treatment, the more convenient and cheaper alternative is a viable option. The study also showed that those with common mental disorders access telephone-based therapy more than traditional sessions. Thanks to the new findings, people in need of counselling will know they aren’t affecting the quality of their treatment if they use remote, telephone-based services.

The researchers used data from the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies database, looking at the records of 39,000 patients. They compared the data to determine whether cognitive behavioural therapy is as effective over the phone as when conducted in person, and found that it is for the vast majority of patients. Those for whom it isn’t as effective have severe conditions, and as a result they can be readily and easily identified. Overall, they make up a very small proportion of people attending psychotherapy. The research also showed that people who talk to a counsellor over the phone pay an average of 36 percent less than the ones who attend treatment face-to-face.

Around one in four people in Britain are affected by a mental illness. More NHS funds are devoted to it than asthma, cancer, strokes and heart disease combined, and GPs also spend a third of their time on mental health issues. The prevalence of mental health issues in the UK and the amount of funding it receives shows why improving access to treatment is extremely important. The new study illustrates that there is ordinarily no difference in terms of quality between talking to a therapist over the phone or in person, so increasing the availability of telephone counselling means that more affected individuals will access suitable treatment.

The researchers argued that many patients might not be able to attend face-to-face sessions with a therapist for a variety of reasons, including existing commitments to work, disabilities or issues with transportation. Peter Jones, who headed the study, commented “Providing therapy over the phone will not only help individuals gain much-needed access to mental health treatment, it will provide a more cost-effective way of providing these services at a time when everyone is concerned about cutting costs.”

The benefits of telephone-based therapy for accessibility are obvious. Accessing treatment over the phone entirely removes travel costs, and makes it easier to find time for counselling. Any people prohibited by the costs will benefit from cheaper treatment, and they also don’t have to spend any money on travelling to sessions. The catchment areas of services can also afford to be much larger if counselling is conducted over the phone, which will give individuals more options for treatment. Expanding psychotherapy to the telephone opens vital services up to a multitude of new clients.

If you or your loved one is struggling with a mental health issue, we’re here to help you. Telephone counselling means that you can receive treatment from anywhere in the UK and makes the entire process more affordable. We’ll assess your requirements and go through the different treatment options with you to ensure that you receive the right care. We offer a completely free initial chat, where we’ll explain your options for counselling. You can come to our Luton offices in person or contact us over the telephone, whichever you prefer. Get in touch with us today and see how we can help you!

Therapeutic Video Games Help With Conditions Such as Depression

Video Games Help With Conditions Such as Depression

Video games are typically charged with corrupting our youth, adversely affecting school performance and breeding sociopathic monsters who go Grand Theft Auto on the real world. These beliefs are somewhat exaggerated, and a new study shows that some video games can actually have beneficial effects for patients with a variety of physical and mental health conditions. Depression and autism were amongst the psychological conditions the researchers from the University of Utah identified as being helped by a new form of video game. This could mean that in future, people suffering from depression or autism may be instructed to play an Xbox, Playstation or Wii title alongside their counselling as part of treatment.

It’s important to note that the video games discussed in this study are part of a new genre of games specifically designed for their therapeutic benefits. Ordinary games, whilst increasing levels of the reward chemical dopamine in the brain, do not possess the same therapeutic value. However, the motivation some people have to play games indicates that they produce some objectively identifiable effect on the individuals’ brains. This is probably related to the dopamine increase, and understanding this mechanism means that games can be specifically designed to help people undergoing therapy in either a psychological or physical setting.

Patients suffering from physical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s and asthma could benefit from the therapeutic games, along with psychological conditions such as depression. Those with physical conditions often require intensive physical therapy, which can put strains on their mental well-being and lead to reduced resilience and empowerment. This draining effect of therapy adversely influences the patients’ motivation, which therefore slows their treatment outcome. By empowering the individuals, the games could improve their attitude towards counselling or physical therapy and therefore lead to better patient outcomes.

Dr. Carol Bruggers, a lead physician on the study, said that “a growing number of published studies show promise in effecting specific health-related behavioural changes and self-management of obesity, neurological disorders, cancer or asthma.” They looked at the data available on exercise-promoting therapeutic games and more ordinary-style games which didn’t involve physical exertion, and found generally positive results. Experts believe that as more companies start to make therapeutic video games, they will be increasingly used for both physical and mental health conditions. Therapists could one day suggest a particular video game for depression patients to compliment and improve their interaction with the psychological counselling they’re receiving.

The researchers suggest areas for further studies which could help designers to more efficiently target of these games in terms of story, music, and recommended play-time for the maximum therapeutic benefits. If the field continues to advance, the medical community is expected to embrace the new form of therapy with open arms because of the growing body of research supporting their effectiveness. Further research could lead to a revolution in terms of improving patient motivations, overall happiness and treatment outcomes.

The psychotherapy required for patients suffering from conditions like depression or autism won’t change, but the games could prove to be an indispensible ally in maximising the therapeutic benefits. If you or your loved one is suffering from depression or any other psychological condition, getting help is absolutely essential. A counsellor can also help anybody going though demanding physical therapy improve their motivation and maintain a positive mood. If you think you or your loved one could benefit from counselling, we can help you determine the severity of the issue and get the treatment you need. Drop in to our Luton offices or contact us by telephone today for some professional, friendly and confidential advice!

Memory Training Could Help with Depression

Memory Training Could Help with Depression

New research published in Clinical Psychological Science indicates that memory training could actually help improve symptoms in individuals suffering from depression. The research might help counsellors come up with more effective treatment plans for people suffering from the condition, with memory training making a potential supplement to the demonstrably effective cognitive behavioural therapy. After just five weekly sessions, the group’s scores on a questionnaire designed to measure the symptoms of anxiety and depression improved significantly, compared to those who did not undergo the training. The sample size for the study wasn’t huge, but the link between memory and depression may have wide-ranging implications for the treatment of the condition.
Depression isn’t just a passing period of the blues. The condition is characterised by a lack of energy, lack of enjoyment in activities that used to bring pleasure and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness on a day-to-day basis. Even tasks like getting out of bed and putting clothes on seem like insurmountable feats, which make ordinary life exceptionally difficult for people suffering from depression. Counselling using an approach such as cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective treatment, along with anti-depressant medications such as SSRIs.
The new study was conducted on Afghani refugees in Iran. The participants had all lost their fathers in the war, and consequently displayed symptoms of depression. There were 23 involved in the study in total, and they were split into two groups. All of the participants were given a memory test at the beginning of the study, along with a questionnaire to help determine the severity of their depression. The memory test presented them with words in Persian, to which they were asked to respond with a specific memory. The words had a mixture of negative, neutral and positive connotations, and each memory was classed as either specific or non-specific.
The 12 participants in the experimental group then attended a weekly memory training session, in which they learnt about types of memory and recall. They were also given the opportunity to practice recalling specific memories in response to similar keywords as on the initial test. The 11 participants not in this group served as the control group, who didn’t receive any training. The tests were issued again after the five week period, and then again two months later as part of a follow-up. The depression and anxiety questionnaire enabled a counsellor to judge the severity of the participants’ symptoms.
At the two month follow-up, the patients who received the training were more likely to recall specific memories in response to the stimulus words. They also showed fewer symptoms of depression compared to those who didn’t receive the training, which indicates that memory recall has some impact on depression. The theory is that the inability to recall specific memories from the past affects the individuals’ ability to solve problems and therefore contributes to depression. This means that psychotherapy for depression could benefit from including sessions on memory training.
These results potentially open up a new area of treatment for those suffering from depression. The researchers suggested that using cognitive behavioural therapy in combination with a supplementary memory training programme could prove extremely effective for depression treatment. The therapist would be able to help the individual in the ordinary way, but the memory training would improve their problem-solving abilities and therefore combat their depression.
If you or your loved one is suffering from depression, finding treatment is absolutely essential. A counsellor can help you get through a difficult patch, and psychotherapy can address the deep-seated issues and negative thought patterns which often contribute to the condition. If you’re unsure about the severity of you or your loved one’s condition and what the best option is for treatment, we can help you get the right care. We’ll conduct an assessment of your requirements and suggest the most suitable treatments to you. Drop by our Luton offices or get in touch with us via telephone and see how we can help you!

Brain Scans Can Indicate Success of CBT for Social Anxiety

Cognitive behavioural therapy success scanning

A recent study has provided evidence that an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan can determine whether or not cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) will be effective for the treatment of individuals’ social anxiety. This finding could mean that the most beneficial treatment for individuals suffering from the condition could be identified before any specific approach is attempted. In some cases, medication such as beta-blockers or benzodiazepines are offered to help those suffering from social anxiety disorder, but the new research means that the effectiveness of therapy could be determined beforehand.
Social anxiety disorder is different from the everyday anxiety that many people struggle with in social situations. It is a more crippling condition, where the anxiety is usually so great that people will actively avoid situations that trigger it. Whilst most people may be somewhat nervous when faced with introducing themselves to a new group of individuals, those with social anxiety disorder may not even attend an event where they’d have the attention of an entire group on them. Generally, those with the condition struggle more in new situations and ones in which they’ll be watched by others for fear of being scrutinized or evaluated by others. Counselling helps these individuals break down their destructive and often irrational thought patterns.
The new study involved a group of individuals about to undergo cognitive behavioural therapy for social anxiety disorder. Before the 12 weeks of treatment, the severity of their condition was measured and they were each shown a series of pictures, depicting either a neutral or an angry face. As they looked at the images, and fMRI scanner measured the difference in their brain activity when they were looking at the neutral and angry images. The individuals then went through the 12 weeks of treatment before a counsellor tested their social anxiety levels again.
It emerged that those who showed a greater difference in neurological activity when looking at the angry faces responded much better to CBT and had vastly reduced social anxiety after 12 weeks compared to those who responded less. The reason why high-level visual processing activity determines the outcome of therapy is far from understood, but the finding gives hope that in the future the best treatment could be determined ahead of time. The next stage of the research is to determine whether they could predict that medication or psychotherapy would be more effective for individual social anxiety sufferers.
This would be extremely valuable information, because the decision is currently based on more practical issues such as the ease of either treatment option for the patient and the likelihood of side effects from medication. If it is true that some individuals are more likely to respond to counselling and others are more likely to respond to medication, being able to identify this will reduce the number of those with the condition being sent for less effective treatment.
Social anxiety disorder is a serious condition that generally requires psychotherapy to tackle effectively. Although some individuals benefit from medicine, the truth is that when they stop taking it, the same thought patterns and social fears will resurface because the root cause hasn’t been addressed. Whilst the new research means it might be possible to identify which method is most effective for the individual, cognitive behavioural therapy addresses the problem in a much deeper fashion than medicine, so it is advised for most people with the condition. If you or your loved one is suffering from social anxiety disorder, we can help you determine the best option for treatment. We’ll listen to your requirements and conduct an assessment to determine the best approach for your needs. Getting the right treatment is never easy, but we’re here to help you! Drop in to our Luton offices or get in touch with us by telephone today!