Psychological therapy and older people

Yesterday the Faculty of the Psychology of Older People (part of the Society's Division of Clinical Psychology) hosted a professional development event event to discuss progress in developing the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) service to cater for people over 65 years.

In 2010, the Secretary of State for Health announced that the IAPT programme is being extended to address the specific needs of people over 65 with anxiety or depression. Since then, the Faculty has been working with the Department of Health to develop guidelines to help services meet the needs of this group.

Epidemiological data shows that whilst 20 per cent of referrals to IAPT services should be for older people only 4 per cent of referrals are actually in this age group. This represents a massive unmet need.

Research evidence presented at the event clearly demonstrates that psychological interventions are equally, or more, effective on older people. Indeed, evidence presented today from IAPT services in Cornwall demonstrates higher recovery rates for older people vs. working age adults (62 per cent vs 50 per cent). A study from Scotland also demonstrates that computerised cognitive behavioural therapy is highly effective on symptoms of depression for older people (effect size: 0.85).

Today, delegates heard about the new IAPT curriculum for working with older people, guidelines for working with people with long terms conditions, a stepped care model for working with carers, and how psychological therapy is effective for people with dementia and mild cognitive impairment. This information will form the basis of a commissioning guideline document.

Cath Burley, chair of the Faculty Chair, said after the meeting: "Today has been an important day for us. The work presented here in Bristol demonstrates why access rates for older people into IAPT service must increase. Older people are a vital part of our community, and improving outcomes for this neglected group will bring benefits to the health service and wider economy. We welcome the Department of Health's decision to appoint a national advisor for IAPT for older people, and hope that this will take forward this important work."