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Opportunities for Use of e-Therapies for Mental Care

The New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists (NZCCP) welcomes the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction support for expanding the use of online or app-based self-help e-therapies. These accessible resources will help people deal with mental health and addictions issues.

Dr Malcolm Stewart, NZCCP President, said “E-therapy resources are often useful for people with mild-moderate mental health and addictions difficulties, and can also be a useful adjunct in combination with other interventions for people with all levels of difficulties, from mild through to severe.”

Many e-therapies are based on sound psychological principles, and some have been evaluated for their effectiveness in helping to improve people’s wellbeing and lives. Dr Stewart also commented that “Research shows that outcomes are often improved if there is some level of direct involvement of someone, such as a health professional, to help the person using the resource to gain maximum benefit.”

The types of treatments that work well for people with mental health and addictions difficulties depend not only on the diagnosis but also on other factors such as a person’s current situation, personal characteristics, and past history. This means that the optimal treatment for different people with the ‘same’ problem may be quite different. Some people will gain considerable benefit from low-intensity interventions such as e-therapies and straight-forward counselling approaches. People with more severe and complex problems may require medium-intensity interventions such as therapy provided by a range of skilled professionals, or high-intensity interventions provided most commonly, but not exclusively, by psychologists. Other mental health interventions, such as medication, may sit alongside any care level, as they have complementary but different types of benefits.

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This approach is often called a stepped care approach, and involves matching the intensity (and therefore cost) of care to the needs of the individual. Appropriate use of e-therapy resources provides a significant opportunity to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people in New Zealand by providing cost-effective and self-directed ways for people to make a difference in their own lives. Dr Stewart said “Provision of services at each level of care, and procedures to match the level of service provided to the needs of the person seeking assistance, are vital to maximise the ability of New Zealand to meet our needs for mental health and addictions care as well as possible.”

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