Talking for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Many decades of research have shown that talking is a highly effective method for lifting mood.
Therapy works. But, like the Wizard of Oz, it doesn’t work for the reasons it appears to. There is a screen of mystique on the surface, but the real efficacy of therapeutic talk is down to some simple things like a warm and trusting relationship where you can talk honestly about your life, understand your feelings, and regain perspective.
Despite practitioners’ belief in their own particular type of therapy it has been shown that the model doesn’t matter very much. Only 15% of the effectiveness of therapy is estimated to be down to matters of specific model or technique (Asay & Lambert 1999).
In fact, much of the effectiveness of therapy boils down to some simple ingredients that all therapies share – known as the ‘common factors’ – such as a good quality relationship between therapist and client. It has also been shown that these ‘common factors’ can be replicated in relationships between ordinary people.
Five key facts underlie the Talk for Health Approach.
5 Facts About Therapeutic Talk
1. Non-professionals can be as good at therapeutic talk as therapists
“…while therapy is shown to be more effective than no therapy, it does not appear to matter whether it is delivered by professionals or paraprofessionals” (Yoeli and Morgan 2011).
In experiments which compare the effectiveness of professional therapists with untrained people, the latter can get as good or better therapy outcomes (Jacobsen and Christensen 1994). As Jacobsen and Christensen commented: ‘In most professions, it would be ludicrous to compare a trained and untrained person. It is hard to imagine a study comparing trained and untrained surgeons, or trained and untrained electricians for that matter’.
2. The effectiveness of therapy depends on ‘non-specific’ factors such as a good relationship between therapist and client.
“Therapy works if clients experience the relationship positively, perceive therapy to be relevant to their concern and goals, and are active participants. (Duncan et al 2004)
3. Ordinary empathic people can deliver good therapy outcomes:
Durlak (1979) reviewed 42 studies comparing the therapy outcomes of trained therapists and ‘paraprofessionals’ – ordinary empathic people. Most of the 42 studies found no differences in effectiveness between trained therapists and paraprofessionals. In two studies, the untrained people got better outcomes.
4. Talking cures people, not one particular model of therapy:
Professor Howe concluded, after his classic study of Psychotherapy: “it is talking which cures, and not particular therapeutic schools and their preferred techniques” (Howe, 1993)
He went further:
“No longer can it be thought that the technique just happens to carry with it a variety of rather common, even mundane human qualities (warmth, a preparedness not to judge or criticize, a wish to understand how the other feels), but the reverse. The common qualities that inform human relationships turn out to be the important elements. It does not matter which technique you use, so long as the ‘non-specific’ ingredients that characterise successful relationships are present.” (Howe, 1993)
5. Confiding in others has immense therapeutic benefit:
“It is a well-established fact that levels of social support – in particular, the presence of close confiding relationships, are closely connected to psychological well-being” (Cooper 2008, p. 75).
“It is a robust finding that people who are isolated and lack intimate social support are more likely to suffer from depression when under stress, and to remain depressed for longer, than those who have such support. (Sherbourne, Hayes and Wells, 1995).” (Halpern, 2005)
Read more on this research and its links to the development of Talk for Health on the Psychminded website here
Health and Wellbeing of the Mind
As an organization, we are committed to encouraging people to think about the health and wellbeing of their minds differently, and we encourage diverse perspectives.
Mental health and wellbeing exist on a continuum – from positive well-being at one end to severe distress at the other.
Anyone can move up and down this continuum, depending on the stressors in your present or past. You can take steps to move up – or you can find yourself moving down. We support credible social, psychological and spiritual perspectives on mental health.
Mainstream psychiatry sees the brain as the site of distress, and medications as the main solution. However, it has been shown that how our brains function, and how we feel, are related to things that happen in our lives. You do not necessarily need to take the chemical road to improving mood. Talk-based processes and other non-drug interventions such as meditation, exercise and being in nature have a major impact.
Social circumstances also have a significant impact. Income inequalities, being an immigrant or a woman, being unemployed, in debt, in a depressing environment, and lacking personal power and influence can all make you depressed, or worse. You can influence some of these factors – such as by increasing the number of confidants you have. Getting political may be the only way of influencing other factors. Activism can be an anti-depressant!
There is a connection between people’s spiritual connection and their wellbeing. Having a spiritual connection – including a non-religious one – has been shown to buffer against distress. By the same token, episodes of severe distress can be viewed as spiritual events, posing opportunities for personal growth. For more information on spiritual, social or psychological perspectives on the mind see Further Reading and Internet Resources below.
This is an eclectic mix of academic and lay reading. They are all books and resources we heartily recommend. For more information go to www.amazon.co.uk
by Marty Selgiman
by Marty Seligman
How to Stay Sane
by Philippa Perry
Hector and the Search for Happiness
a novel by Francois Lelord
The Rough Guide to Happiness
by Dr Nick Baylis
by Richard Layard
by Philippa Perry
by Ernesto Spinelli
A Consumers’ Guide to Psychotherapy
by Beutler et al
Shouldn’t I be feeling better by Now?
edited by Yvonne Bates
The Heart and Soul of Change
edited by Hubble, Duncan and Miller
Overcoming Low Self-Esteem
by Melanie Fennell
Shoot the Damn Dog
by Sally Brampton
The Compassionate Mind
by Paul Glibert
by Richard Bentall
Models of Madness
edited by John Read and colleagues
Anatomy of an Epidemic
by Robert Whitaker
Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry
edited by Peter Stastny and Peter Lehrmann
From the Ashes of Experience
by Barker, Campbell and Davidson
On Our Own
by Judi Chamberlin
Hearing Voices – A Common Human Experience
by John Watkins
Religion for Atheists
by Alain de Botton
A Path With Heart
by Jack Kornfield
Psychosis and Spirituality
edited by Isabel Clarke
by Stan Grof
The Spirit Level
by Wilkinson and Pickett
Mental Health and the Built Environment
by David Halpern
by David Halpern
Power and Interest in Psychology
by David Smail
Psychology in the Real World
by Guy Holmes
The Female Malady
by Elaine Showalter
by Young-Eisendrath and Wiedemann
Action for Happiness gives information on taking care of your wellbeing.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has a Find a Therapist website.
The Spiritual Crisis Network gives information and one-off email support to those who have had spiritual experiences alongside mental distress.
Hearing Voices Network is an inspiring organization that supports voice-hearers and campaigns to eliminate stigma.