Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

The missing mental health conversation

Edited by Jill Wright,

The ABC's Mental As coverage (as I've said) is wonderful. But it isn't looking at some of the critical issues relating to the delivery of effective mental health services in this country.

The UK has some of the same issues, but at least they are being talked about over there, most recently by Professor Peter Beresford, in a piece in The Guardian that calls for more involvement in policy discussions by "survivors" of the mental health system.  

Beresford warns that the UK is heading down the wrong road, marked by "over-reliance on drug treatment and the reduction of 'talking therapies' to short-term cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)".

Unfortunately - and this is what the ABC and other media should be exploring - Australia is proceeding merrily down the same track. 

Our policy makers have ignored increasing concerns about over-prescribing of drugs by GPs and psychiatrists.

They have hobbled the majority of psychologists by mandating what techniques they must use, despite the fact that, as the eminent researcher Bruce Wampold, puts it, "there is absolutely no evidence that one treatment for a particular disorder is more effective than any other". 

Indeed, research studies continue to confirm that the most important factors in successful therapy have little to do with the type of treatment or academic background of the practitioner, but are instead "common factors" related to the characteristics and actions of the therapist. 

Our policy-makers have also favoured clinical psychologists, who have been trained in the medical model and its terminology, over other well-qualified specialists and generalist psychologists with years of experience and demonstrated clinical effectiveness.

I have great respect, by the way, for clinical psychologists, most of whom have similar concerns to mine. In the UK, it is the clinical psychologists who have been publicly challenging psychiatrists and the biomedical model. 

Australians deserve to have a public exploration of these issues, before the report of the review of Australia's mental health services and programs is handed down in little more than a month, and we make an even bigger mess of things. 

About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the APS Victorian branch Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.