A new approach to ‘talking therapy’ introduced in Norfolk to offer patient choice, has allowed people who have depression and anxiety to gain access to treatment without taking time off from work or college. Results from the successful pilot of PsychologyOnline, which uses text-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), revealed over 50% of appointments were outside of normal 9-5 office hours; with the most popular time being 7-9pm. Patrick Wymbs, clinical service lead for central Norfolk’s Wellbeing Service, explained that improving access to therapy was one of the reasons why the new treatment has been introduced. He said: “Many people in rural parts of Norfolk find it difficult to get to appointments. Additionally, if you are working or have young children, taking time out during the busy day can be awkward. “The internet is an integral part of people’s lives and we believe that offering online therapy is an important part of the future. Including PsychologyOnline in our portfolio of services offers clients greater choice and flexibility in accessing support.” PsychologyOnline uses instant messaging to support one-on-one therapy with an experienced psychotherapist. The client doesn’t need to meet the therapist so the sessions can be taken at home or other convenient place where there is access to the internet using a mobile phone or computer. The data shows that people of all ages are happy to access therapy in this way; one in ten of the clients were over 55 years of age. Recovery rates were also above that expected achieving higher clinical recovery rates than the national average for face-to-face therapy. Kate Tilbury, therapist team leader at PsychologyOnline, explained that once a person chooses the online service they are given consistent care with the same therapist. “In Norfolk we are treating people with a range of conditions such as anxiety and depression at varying degrees of severity,” she said. “Our therapists are trained to the highest level which means that once the client has developed trust and begun to make progress they stay with that therapist. “CBT works by changing the way we think and feel about problems. The process of answering questions through writing is very effective for retraining the brain. Using text also allows people to be more honest about their feelings. This helps the therapist to work with them on the real issues they are facing and brings about a quicker and more sustained recovery.” Patients in the Norfolk pilot needed on average six sessions to achieve a recovery, 40% fewer sessions than would be expected from traditional face-to-face talking therapy. Patrick added: “The Wellbeing Service aims to support people in making changes in their lives, to manage levels of stress as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression. With PsychologyOnline, no one else needs to know that the client is having therapy so it overcomes the embarrassment that some people still experience with mental health.” The Wellbeing Service is free and open to anyone aged 16 years and over in Norfolk and Waveney. People can be referred by their GP or can self-refer online by visiting www.readytochange.org.uk or telephoning 0300 123 1503.