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Swedish model needed for Mental Health

Swedish model needed for Mental Health

Psychotherapists say that Mental Health in Aotearoa needs more radical reform than just adding more of the same services and resources. Whether the Mental Health commission is re-established (as recommended by Dr Barbara Disley) or a Royal Commission of Inquiry is established (as requested by the People’s Mental Health review), fresh ideas are needed most of all.

New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists call for fresh ideas like this from Mark Murphy psychotherapist and trauma specialist from Ohinetahi:

“Organizing our mental health system along dominantly biomedical and cognitive-behavioural lines severely limits our sense of choice, therefore our potential for healing" Murphy said.

This is exactly the conclusion Sweden has reached after reviewing its mental health system and funding: the CBT monopoly undermines patient choice, therefore limits better mental health outcomes.

"What if Aotearoa could do a Sweden? What if we transformed our mental health services by putting client agency at the heart of our system, and gave people in this country more meaningful choice in how they wish to engage in and navigate this often perilous journey towards greater wholeness and peace" said Murphy.

"Our mental health system is dominated by a largely biomedical (i.e. pharmaceutical) and cognitive-behavioural approach to diagnosis. While useful (and indeed essential) in many circumstances, and helpful for some people, they do not suit or work for everyone" said Murphy.

"One of the reasons why cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) has been so widely taken up and funded by many governments around the world, including our own, is the widespread view that it is offers the best ‘evidence-based’ treatment for mental health issues. Actually, numerous studies and meta-reviews have shown that all therapies work equally well." Murphy explained.

"What is critical to successful treatment is (1) the client’s ability to choose and tailor their own treatment and (2) the quality of therapeutic relationship that is formed between client and therapist, so that (3) the client feels empowered and motivated to fully engage in and co-create their own therapy journey." said Murphy.

"We need to move away from a system that seeks to find, fund, and implement ‘the best treatment approach’, and rather embrace the ‘evidence-based’ finding that client agency and the quality of the therapeutic relationship is what is truly critical in raising mental health outcomes. In Aotearoa New Zealand we need a government that is bold enough to create a healthcare system that reflects this updated understanding of ‘what works’ in mental health." Murphy said.

"Choice is one of the most important therapeutic ingredients in ‘mental health treatment’. When we are beset by inner psychological turmoil we often feel out of control, stripped of resources, options and personal power. All trauma (earthquakes, illness, loss, abuse and neglect etc) has its sources in events and impacts we often didn’t choose, in which our sense or personal agency and power was undermined, overwhelmed, or violated. It is so, so important to begin therapy with choice” he said.

NZAP psychotherapists call for a restructured and revitalised mental health system that offers a range of treatments and acknowledges the vital aspect of therapeutic alliance between clinician and client. People could be asked "How would you like to be healed?"

Lynne Holdem
Public Issues spokesperson


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