04 September 2017

Finding digital solutions to improve access to mental health care Emily Waller, senior policy and campaigns officer at Mind

Emily talks us through the pros and cons of digital therapies and what NICE is doing to help

Those of us with mental health problems are struggling to get the right help at the right time.

Mental health services are stretched and waiting times are unacceptably long.

We know that getting the right therapy at the right time is crucial – it can help people to better manage their condition and, in many cases, recover fully. 

This is why Mind has been campaigning for improved access to psychological therapies for many years.

Digital therapies could be used to give people timely access to treatment. However, they are still relatively new and the reviews are mixed.

Some people have told us that they enjoy the self-autonomy digital therapy offers whereas others feel it isolates them and that they prefer seeing a therapist in person.

We can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to tackling mental health problems. Ensuring people have a range of treatment options that they can choose from is key. And it’s essential that digital therapies are delivered alongside in-person support from a therapist, so no one feels left out in the cold.

This is why I joined the expert panel overseeing NICE’s Improving Access to Psychological Digital Therapies (IAPT) programme.

The NICE programme offers clinicians, people with mental health problems, commissioners and product developers the chance to come together to look at digital therapies that could enhance the care people already receive.

We feel strongly that digital therapies shouldn’t be used to replace other care options, but to expand the choice of what’s available so that people can choose what’s right for them.

More than anything, it’s essential that those of us with mental health problems are at the heart of decisions about care, and are always given a meaningful choice of treatment options.


  • It's great to see someone with lived experience involved in this initiative. There is great promise here in shortening wit times for services but it needs to be done right.

  • Adults diagnosed with an auistic spectrum disorder very often have mental health problems, usually an anxiety disorder and a mood disorder. How is the content and process of the digital solutions programme and the processof referral being adapted to meet the psychological therapy needs of adults diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition.

  • Hi Clifford, we're looking to assess digital support that can be delivered as part of a 'blended model' of care, which means it is one part of the treatment plan. It would be supported by an IAPT therapist and they would be able to decide whether this technology would be of benefit.

  • Thanks for your comment, Thomas. Do keep an eye on the IAPT webpage for updates.

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