Addressing the need for evidence-based psychological therapies

8 Dec 2017 - 13:45

Convenors of the symposium Professors Crick Lund, John Joska and Dr Lena Andersen

Convenors of the symposium Professors Crick Lund, John Joska and Dr Lena Andersen

There is an urgent need to develop brief, evidence-based, scalable psychological interventions at primary healthcare level in South Africa.

In order to begin to address this need, Professors John Joska and Crick Lund, and Dr Lena Andersen from the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, convened the inaugural Psychotherapy Symposium, titled: 'What works in South Africa: Evidence-based psychological therapies for resource limited settings'.

The overall goal of the symposium, which was organised by a multi-institutional committee, was to consolidate current evidence to improve the delivery of psychological therapies in poorly resourced primary care and community settings.

Dr Tracey Naledi, chief director for health programmes in the Western Cape Department of Health, opened proceedings with a keynote speech that highlighted the psychological needs of patients in clinics. She said the department had a clear vision and was seeking expertise to improve delivery.

Over the next two days, through talks and presentations, delegates engaged with key issues and challenges on the effectiveness of evidence-based psychological therapies in treating a range of mental disorders. Presentations were organised according to various clinical groups – chronic disease, maternal mental health, child and adolescent mental health, and systematic reviews.

“The aim was to provide a forum to share evidence and gain a common understanding of what psychological therapies work, for whom, and under what conditions,” said the convenors.

Bringing together a wide range of professionals, delegates included civil society groups, government organisations, public and private sector nurses, counsellors, clinicians, trainees, psychiatrists, psychologists and academic researchers.

Other notable speakers were Professor Ricardo Araya from the Centre for Global Mental Health, King's College London, and Professor Kathleen Sikkema from Duke University in the US.

The symposium was supported by funding from UCT's Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Stellenbosch University's departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, the Alan J Fisher Centre for Public Mental Health and the HIV Mental Health Research Unit.