BACPs latest public attitudes survey reveals that 77% of people who’ve had therapy would recommend it to somebody who had emotional difficulties or a mental health problem. Question is, should we be throwing our hats in the air at that percentage, or should we be concerned?
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77% of respondents would recommend counselling
Following a recent tweet from BACP, I’m trying to work out whether responses to BACPs latest public attitudes survey represent good news or bad news, or just a mixed and rather confusing picture.
The survey of 5,333 UK adults was carried out online between 9 to 22 February 2023. Among its findings were the following:
- 95% of people who’ve had counselling or psychotherapy think it’s important it should be accessible to everyone who wants it.
- 92% of people who’ve had counselling or psychotherapy agree it’s a good idea to seek counselling or psychotherapy for a problem before it gets out of hand.
- 82% of people who’ve had counselling or psychotherapy agree people might be happier if they talk to a counsellor or psychotherapist about their problems.
- 77% of people who’ve had counselling or psychotherapy would be likely to recommend it to somebody who had emotional difficulties or a mental health problem.
So, the principle that therapy should be accessible to anyone who wants it gets the highest level of endorsement. It’s followed by sentiments that it’s a good idea to tackle problems before they escalate, and that people might be happier if they did.
The lowest level of endorsement, however, is from the 77% who would be likely to recommend therapy to someone who might need it. If this were a 4-way medal competition, actual recommendation of therapy from those who’ve received it wouldn’t even get a place on the podium.
Hardly a ringing endorsement…..
I don’t know about you, but if I’m buying goods or services I’m not familiar with, I’m likely to turn to some form of consumer rating. Generally, anything with less than four stars tends to get a wide berth.
On the basis that 77% of previous consumers of therapy would recommend it to others, I think there’s grounds for arguing that we have something of an image problem.
Here’s the survey finding again:
“77% of people who’ve had counselling or psychotherapy would be likely to recommend it to somebody who had emotional difficulties or a mental health problem”
Is that percentage something we should be content with, or not? If you think that statement is a positive endorsement, let me offer you a reframe.
“Nearly one quarter of respondents who’ve received therapy didn’t say they would recommend it.”
However the statement is phrased, to my ears it hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement. And, given that it comes from people who have previous experience of therapy, what is it saying about the experiences of the missing 23%?
Are we failing the 23 percent?
We know, overall, that therapy works. With an effect size of around 0.8, therapy has a large effect. The average ‘treated’ client is better off, psychologically speaking, than 79% of people who are untreated.
But we also know that therapy’s effects aren’t uniform. Not everyone benefits. Impact varies across therapists, services and settings. We’re not all the same.
I’ll be happy when the proportion of people who’ve had therapy and would recommend it reaches 100%. If we’re to shift the dial on public perception, however, I think we need to do a little better.
Attrition rates in some settings are inexplicably high and improvement rates worryingly low. IAPT is a prime example. As the graphic below shows, a significant amount of clients don’t go beyond a first session. Of those that do, a significant proportion fail to demonstrate improvement.
I’d dearly love to know what therapy the 23% who didn’t recommend therapy received, and what their experience of it was. I’d dearly love to be able to drill down and see what we might learn about their experience.
Sadly, that opportunity has gone But it really needn’t stop us from working hard to understand the experience of clients who we’re working with right now, as well as those in the future. Let’s do what we can to all try and get a little closer to that 100%.
Just like you we thrive on feedback.
Please leave your thoughts on what you’ve read in the comments section below.