What on earth is 'guided self help'

We share more about a new approach that could benefit us all

Most of us are used to just thinking about mental health treatment as being 1 on 1 face to face talking therapy - the kind we see on movies where you just lie back in your chair and the therapist doesn’t say anything but ‘why do you think that’.

To be honest when you have that in mind, the first step to doing something can feel quite scary. After all, not all of us want to delve into our past. And how do you even know if it will work? Or what if it actually just leaves us worse? And that’s not to mention the cost or  taking the effort to speak to the GP let alone the long waiting lists etc etc. If you’ve thought about therapy in the past and not ended up doing it for any of these reasons - you’re not alone!

“Self help” and “guided self help” are approaches that can be easy to startt. The way in which they work is by taking well evidenced therapeutic techniques but allowing you to learn these in your own time - be that through reading a book, watching some videos or listening to an audio recording. With guided self help you also have a check in with a coach. This coach can help you to make sense of the techniques e.g. by helping to explain any you don’t understand or helping you to apply them. 

Academic evidence shows guided self help can be just as effective face to face therapy. In fact there are over 50 randomised controlled trials (i.e. the gold standard in evaluating this type of thing) that prove its effectiveness. However, because the person is learning the techniques in their own time, it’s a fraction of the cost. 

What’s also interesting is that this sort of approach isn’t just for solving mental health problems, it can also be incredibly effective in promoting general wellbeing and preventing future problems. 

This isn’t to say that no one ever needs to speak to a therapist 1 on 1. It’s just that for many of us there are other things that we can try earlier on in the journey. For some people, guided self help or self help is enough to keep them in good mental health. For others, it’s the start of a journey. Given the long waiting lists in the NHS and the cost of private therapy, perhaps it’s actually something all of us can do to keep ourselves a little more mentally well. 

Ann Don Bosco

May 9, 2023

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