Easing the Pressure: The Effectiveness of Talking Therapies for Stress

With the advent of Stress Awareness Month and the publication of new figures on this topic, Hannah Pione discusses the importance of NHS Talking Therapies in helping people manage stress, and how their service – Therapy For You – supports its communities in North East and South East Essex.

A recent study in Behaviour Research and Therapy revealed that just 20 seconds of self-compassion every day can help significantly lower stress and anxiety levels.

These “micropractices”, which can be as simple as placing a hand over the heart, are basic actions that can help people avoid becoming overwhelmed – and are good examples of the small, affirmative exercises Stress Awareness Month are putting an emphasis on for 2024 

However, this all comes as fresh figures reveal the prevalence of stress in the UK. According to the Mental Health Foundation:

●     74% of people say they have felt so stressed that they were overwhelmed or couldn’t cope

●     Just 7% of young adults say they never felt overwhelmed by stress in the past year

●     51% of adults who felt stressed say they also felt depressed, while 61% reported feeling anxious

In addition, as many as 1 in 14 said they felt under pressure every day, while a substantial 79% of UK adults feel stressed at least one day a month.

“Stress is something we all experience throughout our lives,” explains Hannah Pione, Digital Service Lead and CBT Therapist at Therapy For You. “It can affect people in different ways, and even be a useful tool in some situations. But, when we feel under pressure constantly, it can become a serious drain, mentally, emotionally and physically.” 

“Some people might become more irritable when they feel overwhelmed by stress, or experience a greater sense of anxiety. Others may start to develop a lower opinion of themselves, worry more often, or find it difficult to maintain a positive mood day-to-day.”

The impact of stress is more than psychological. Evidence suggests it can affect almost every part of the body, leading to headaches and digestive issues, or higher blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

“As you can imagine, these consequences can permeate through our lives. A clouded mind may make it harder to perform at work, while overwhelming feelings of anxiety can harm relationships. These problems can pile onto the stress a person is already under, creating a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape,” adds Pione.

How NHS Talking Therapies can help manage stress

Stress is a serious problem for millions of people in the UK every year. To help individuals overcome these challenges, NHS Talking Therapies are an important tool.

What are NHS Talking Therapies?

Delivered by trained and accredited practitioners, Talking Therapies are confidential, evidence-based psychological treatments that can be accessed for free on the NHS.

“Working with a qualified therapist, patients can explore the causes of their stress, discuss their thoughts and feelings privately, and learn practical techniques to help improve their wellbeing both now and in the future,” says Pione. 

“Contrary to what many people may think, these therapies don’t have to involve face-to-face conversations with a therapist. Everyone experiences stress in their own way, and to help patients overcome their unique challenges, our treatments cover a variety of topics and can be conducted online, in groups, or over phone or video calls.”

“Whatever form these sessions take, by the end of treatment, the goal is to equip patients with the skills they need to better cope with stress today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives.”

The effectiveness of talking therapies and stress

Out of an estimated 3.5 million people who began NHS Talking Therapies in England in 2022/23, 49.9% moved to recovery. While these figures are positive, Pione stresses that several other advantages make NHS Talking Therapies ideal for managing stress.

Treatments are tailored

One of the strongest benefits of talking therapies is how the intensity and duration of an individual’s treatment are customised to the mental health problems they are facing.

“In addition, the various ways these sessions can be conducted offers real flexibility,” explains Pione. “No matter a person’s schedule or comfortability with in-person sessions, the variety of available pathways allow patients to find their most effective path to overcoming the stress in their lives.”

Practitioners are trained and supervised

According to the three key principles of NHS Talking Therapies, every practitioner is equipped with the specific, necessary skills to help those struggling with stress and similar emotional difficulties.

“Coupled with regular supervision from senior clinical practitioners, those responsible for supporting patients are encouraged to make continual improvements to how they work – something I think is crucial to achieving the positive outcomes needed to help participants manage their stress,” adds Pione.

Outcomes are monitored

Another key advantage of NHS Talking Therapies is how patients’ outcomes are monitored after every session. 

“As well as helping guide the course of each person’s treatment, keeping an eye on patients and their progress on a routine basis is a useful resource for practitioners to learn from and improve,” says Pione.

How Therapy For You is easing stress locally

Therapy For You, the mental health service for North East and South East Essex, delivers a wide range of mental health therapies and talking therapies designed to help people manage stress in a healthier, long-lasting way.

“With the cost of living crisis at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and the accessibility of news stories on social media, it’s no surprise we’ve seen a significant jump in the number of people struggling to manage stress in recent years,” states Pione.

 “At Therapy For You, we’ve helped hundreds in our community better understand the causes of their stress, and build practical, lifelong coping techniques. Treating each patient’s situation with the dedicated attention it deserves, we create a unique path to help them better manage stress at work, home and beyond.”

With accessibility and inclusivity at the core of Therapy For You’s approach, the service is actively investing in solutions that ensure anyone struggling with stress in their communities can reach out to professional support.

“From our recent introduction of Limbic Access – a convenient chatbot for patients to make referrals to the service through, even out of hours – to the numerous pathways to treatment we offer, such as our online CBT courses, we are committed to giving people the practical tools and support they need to reduce the strain that stress has on their lives,” adds Pione.

Hannah Pione is a Digital Lead and CBT Therapist at Therapy For You, part of the Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust.

About Therapy For You

Therapy For You is the local NHS Talking Therapies provider for Colchester, Tendring, Southend, Castle Point and Rochford, committed to helping people feel better through a range of treatment pathways for anxiety, depression, stress and more, including:

●     Omni Online CBT courses

●     1-1 therapy

●     ieso typed therapy

●     Group therapy

●     Video therapy

●     Phone therapy

Working in partnership with Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), Therapy For You remains devoted to breaking down the barriers to mental health access. They have helped 98.6% of its users seek meaningful support and 99.4% to better understand their difficulties through proven treatments and innovative online therapy.

The service provides treatment to individuals aged 18 and above in South East Essex and individuals aged 16 and above in North East Essex who are not currently receiving secondary mental health care or crisis services.

If you would like to find out more about Therapy For You, visit their website or reach out at 01268 739 128 if you live in South East Essex, or 01206 334 001 if you are a resident of North East Essex.

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