by guest author Carol Brown
SilverCloud Project Manager, Powys Teaching Health Board
Every October, the days get shorter, the nights longer, and there’s a rise in demand for mental health services. But the SilverCloud Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) service remains open for business.
Powys residents have unique access to the SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service, which offers people aged 16+, who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, depression or stress, a 12-week course of online therapy via their smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, plus six sessions with an Online CBT practitioner.
Pre-Covid, the six sessions with an Online CBT practitioner took place face-to-face at GP surgeries in Powys, now they take place over the phone and by email.
The Online CBT practitioners review users’ progress on SilverCloud, signpost activities and tools available on the online therapy system, and offer encouragement and support.
The SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service is run by Powys Teaching Health Board in partnership with Ponthafren Association in North Powys, Mid and North Powys Mind and Brecon Mind covering South Powys.
|Anthea Jones, Mid & North Powys Mind|
Anthea Jones from Mid & North Powys Mind tells us how they've adapted their service from in-person to online and how social media has helped them engage with people.
“The winter blues is a phenomenon. There is always an increase in admissions to mental health services when the clocks go back. It really does help to make sure you get outside and get as much daylight as possible in autumn and winter. Think of it as self-care. It keeps your mood up having the light.
“As soon as Covid hit, we moved from meeting clients face-to-face in the GP surgery to supporting people over the phone and by email.
“We also widened the referral process so that as well as GPs, other healthcare and mental health professionals can refer people to us.
“At Mid and North Powys Mind, we responded to a demand in lockdown by recording and sharing videos to our Facebook page to support people with their mental health and wellbeing.
“We’ve made videos explaining SilverCloud and the different tools and activities it features such as how CBT can help with anxiety, the link between food and mood, gratitude, mindfulness, Tai Chi, and the importance of getting out in nature to keep your mood up. There’s lots on our Facebook page.
“The response has been really positive. We get feedback from people saying ‘thanks’ and ‘that’s really helped me’ which is good to hear. Our viewing figures are up to 2,000 per broadcast and that’s spurred us on to keep going.
“One of the common things I’ve found with people who use the SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service is the overthinking. It’s like everyone’s living a second life in their head, thinking about things too much, dwelling on things, especially with the uncertainty that Covid has brought to our lives.
“To help with this, I walk clients through the Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviours cycle, which shows you how what you think affects how you feel and how you behave. This is explained on SilverCloud.
“Keeping a thought diary can help get thoughts out of your head and help you see patterns that you can learn from, such as thoughts that come up every day and thoughts you might need to look at more deeply.
“On a practical level, positive self-talk can help. So ‘I can’t do anything right’ becomes ‘I can do better next time’, for example. Upping your activity levels is also key. Break up the time you spend sitting and thinking and get up and out, using your hands and feet and losing yourself in physical activity. Being active can make such a difference.
How does SilverCloud Blended Online CBT work?
“When people are first referred to SilverCloud Blended Online CBT we’ll have an hour for our first session together where I help them get set up, walk them through how to use it and get the most out of it.
“The amount of time people spend using SilverCloud is flexible, because users can log-in and work through the programme in a way that fits into their lifestyles. Ideally, people log-in for around 15 minutes every day to work their way through the activities and tasks that make up their programme and they’ll complete a fortnightly review online.
“I’ll have a look at their results and use the five follow-up sessions, which are around 20 minutes each, to give them a call – or email if they prefer – to discuss their progress, give feedback and offer support.
Who do you work with?
“I work with a real range of people on the SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service, aged 16 to 80.
“I have been working with a lady in her seventies who’s been really great with it. She’s put a lot of effort into using SilverCloud and we’ve built up a really good rapport over the 12-week programme and her mental health and wellbeing scores have vastly improved.
“Then, the fact that it’s an online programme naturally attracts younger people, men especially, who like that they can work on their mental health and wellbeing in private, so to speak, without everyone knowing about it.
“For example, I started working with a student in his early twenties during lockdown who was struggling with anxiety. He didn’t feel able to talk about this with family and friends but he started using SilverCloud and likes the conversations we have around it.
“I find the service is also popular with men in their early thirties. Again, anxiety is a common issue and being able to do the programme online with the support from an Online CBT practitioner like myself means the blended approach really works for them.
“SilverCloud gives people the chance to lead a ‘normal’ life but with backup support. Plus, being an online service, it fits around working life and I think because of lockdown, more people are looking for online solutions.
“Now, because of Covid, they don’t have to take the afternoon off for a face-to-face appointment with me at the GP surgery. They know we’ll check in with them over the phone or by email. And an online service is useful for people in rural areas like Powys where the geography can pose a challenge to accessing health services at the best of times.
Anxiety is a common issue
“Users can choose from a range of mental health and wellbeing programmes to complete at their own pace over 12 weeks. Programme options include help with anxiety, depression, stress, sleep, and money worries.
“The programmes that help with anxiety are most popular with people I work with. I’m keen to point people towards the resilience programme as it can really help with thoughts about going into lockdown again and being down about life.”
- Mid and North Powys Mind Facebook You can view their mental health and wellbeing videos on www.facebook.com/mnpowysmind/
- SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service – available in Powys. If you are interested in signing up for this combination of online CBT with phone call and email support sessions with an Online CBT practitioner, please contact Mid and North Powys Mind, or Brecon Mind or Ponthafren Association in North Powys. Alternatively, please email Silver.Cloud@Wales.nhs.uk with the subject line ‘SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service’ or call 01874 712 428.
- SilverCloud Self-Referral – available across Wales If you’re aged 16+ you can now sign up directly for SilverCloud Online CBT without needing to go through your GP or other healthcare professional. Although an online self-help service, you will be allocated an Online CBT co-ordinator who will liaise with you via the SilverCloud platform in order to guide you through the programme and monitor your progress.