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Guided self-help supported by paraprofessional mental health workers: an uncontrolled before–after cohort study

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There has been considerable development of guided self-help clinics within primary care. This uncontrolled before–after cohort study examines efficiency and effectiveness of these clinics when supported by paraprofessional mental health workers having little mental health training and experience. Data were collected by seven Graduate Mental Health Workers (GMHW) located in South-west England. Alongside an analysis of clinic attendance and dropout, efficiency was measured with respect to the number and length of sessions to support patients with the effectiveness of the interventions examined with respect to problem severity. Over a 15-month period, 1162 patients were referred to the GMHW clinics with 658 adopting guided self-help. Patients using guided self-help received an average input per patient, excluding assessment, of four sessions of 40 minutes. Dropout rate was comparable to other primary-care-based mental health clinics supported by experienced mental health professionals with 458 patients completing all support sessions. However, only 233 patients went on to attend the 3 months of follow-up session. Effectiveness of guided self-help clinics supported by paraprofessional mental health workers was comparable to that supported by an experienced mental health nurse. Improvements in problem severity were statistically significant, with 55% and 58% (final support session) and 63% and 62% (3 months of follow-up) of patients experiencing clinically significant and reliable change for anxiety and depression, respectively. However, concerns exist over the efficiency of the GMHW clinic especially with respect to the use of longer support sessions and high dropout rate at the 3 months of follow-up session. The paper concludes by highlighting the effectiveness of guided self-help when supported by paraprofessional mental health workers, but questions the utility of the two-plus-one model of service delivery proposing a collaborative care approach as an alternative.
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Keywords: acceptability; effectiveness; graduate mental health worker; paraprofessional; primary care; self-help; uncontrolled before–after cohort study

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Applied Psychosocial Studies, University of Plymouth, 2: Peninsula Medical School & Plymouth Teaching PCT and 3: School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Plymouth, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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