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Study probes depression treatment

Preliminary research findings have shown that mental health nurses who have received only the minimum training can deliver psychotherapy treatment to people with depression.

Researchers at Durham University's Mental Health Research Centre discovered that a psychotherapy for depression called behavioural activation can be administered to patients with severe depression by non-specialist mental health staff, which could help reduce considerable costs for the NHS.

The current procedure is for specialist clinicians and therapists to deliver psychotherapies, including behavioural activation.

Mental health nurses who took part in the study were given five days of behavioural activation training and an hour of clinical supervision every two weeks.

Despite the results of the study being preliminary, the researchers have suggested that they could potentially pave the way for people with depression to have greater access to psychological therapies, and could also ease the pressure of specialist therapist shortages.

Estimates suggest that less than 10% of people with depression, who need some form of psychological therapy, get access to it.

The research, conducted by Durham University, University of Exeter, and the University of York, is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Lead author David Ekers, an honorary clinical lecturer at Durham University and nurse consultant at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation Trust, said: "This is a small-scale study and certainly more research with bigger trials is needed but it shows some very promising early findings.

"The results indicate that with limited training, generic mental health workers can be trained to deliver clinically effective behavioural activation to people with long-standing depression."

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