Specialists offer alternative group therapy
HURLINGHAM – GROUP cognitive behavioural therapy has been launched by a team of specialists in Hurlingham, and this form of treatment is considered relatively new in South Africa.
At a media briefing held on 19 March, Dr Colinda Linde explained that the number of available specialists in the mental health profession was dwarfed by the estimated number of people who endured mental illness in the general population.
The group cognitive behavioural therapy team consists of two psychiatrists and a psychologist. The team explained that group sessions usually include at least two specialists who guide and facilitate the process.
Linde was joined by her colleagues, fellow psychiatrist Dr Antoinette Miric, who has experience treating bipolar disorder, and psychologist Tyrone Edgar.
Linde presented data gathered by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. She said the statistics show that there are about one million suicides worldwide each year, while 30 percent of people with bipolar disorder attempted suicide.
She pointed out that in addition to the low number of mental health professionals available, there are only about 20 qualified cognitive behavioural therapists in the country.
Linde said that cognitive behavioural therapy is focused on psycho-education where the individual develops awareness about warped core beliefs which they have about themselves, and the client and therapist work as a team.
This type of therapy aims to teach the client skills through facilitated gradual exposure and behavioural experiments, ultimately helping clients to move on and become independent of therapy.
The team noted that studies show that cognitive behavioural therapy yielded positive results, although they acknowledged that there was not enough evidence yet to make that same assessment on group cognitive behavioural therapy.
They also highlighted the benefits of a group environment, as it reached more clients and provided participants an opportunity to learn from each other.
Currently, group cognitive behavioural therapy is being offered under different themes namely social anxiety, assertiveness, emotional regulation, living with bipolar, and mindfulness.
Miric noted the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy in preventing and reducing the risk of relapse in bipolar patients, while emphasising that therapy should not be used as a substitute for medication should a patient be prescribed meds.
Miric also explained that the cost of group cognitive behavioural therapy was significantly less than the cost of individual therapy.
At present, participants are charged based on a sliding scale, thereby accommodating patients of different income levels.