The south west London based Kingston iCope service is on a mission to improve access to care for marginalised groups in their borough with ehealth. Over the past months, project lead PWP Emma-Jayne Lawes has been managing the implementation of the Minddistrict platform in their service.
She’s all about overcoming stigma, increasing access to mental health support and continuity of care even after discharge. While the first clients access seamless care on Kingston iCope online, we took the chance to interview Lawes on the implementation story so far:
Q: Did you know anything about online therapy before you took on the role of project manager?
I’d heard of online therapy before. However, I hadn’t really had any previous experience with online therapy nor in delivering it. The service hadn’t certainly been involved in anything like this before either.
Q: What motivated Kingston to start using online therapy?
In particular, it was to increase access rates to marginalised groups such as the male and Korean population. I suppose there were elements with regards to staff as well. To help reduce pressure on the PWP staff whilst increasing the numbers into treatment. Actually, within our service we found that there wasn’t enough capacity to reach the goal that the commissioners were requiring of us with just the talking and telephone therapy provision.
Q: So how would online therapy help to reduce that pressure in your service?
You know it adds another tool to our toolbox, a different way of working alongside face-to-face and telephone provision. Also, we don't need to book a room for an appointment and don't need to send people materials in the post or email because everything's there online. It's equally about the opportunity to develop skills and a new way of working. It gives a little bit more variety to the PWP role.
It’s also about easing the pressure on the waiting list that we have. It will be especially good for clients who perhaps require a specific time like a 7 p.m. appointment which in reality they could be waiting a long time for. So it's good to have this to offer clients where they can do sessions in their own time, fitted into their day. That flexibility is really good I think.
Q: What are your favourite parts about the online treatment platform?
I think it’s great that clients have access to the platform for an entire year which I believe will help them in achieving sustainable behavioural change. Additionally, for relapse prevention I think that the platform will be a really good tool for clients. It will help as they are able to revisit their previous work or do an individual training if desired.
I also really like the fact that there are persona stories in the modules. Like Joe for instance, who is suffering with depression. It’s nice that clients can follow his story throughout the sessions in the depression module. I think it creates that normalising aspect to it which people can relate too. It helps clients as they can see they’re are not alone in the journey to recovery.
Q: Come to think of clients, how have they reacted to online therapy?
Since we just started, I haven’t had that much feedback yet. My general idea is that many of the clients aren’t aware that online therapy is an option available. Clients expect therapy to be face-to-face and picture themselves sitting on a coach. We are managing these expectations by explaining that the therapy is different. Online therapy is innovative, it is modern and it is a new way of doing therapy.
Q: I’ve also heard the Kingston service has a ‘Korean project’. What are the aims?
In the Kingston borough there is quite a big Korean population. But the number of Korean people accessing our service is not proportionate to the size of the population. We found that the reason for that might have to do with stigma and culture. So we have devised 'the Korean project'. We're translating the online therapy platform entirely to Korean and we will offer people online care. They don't have to come to sessions, and we think that this sense of anonymity should help to increase access rates. Actually, this could be effective for all marginalised groups, and depending on the project, we will extend this service to the Polish and Sri-Lankan people in the Kingston borough too.
Q: What has been the biggest challenges during this implementation phase?
Before the start of it all it felt quite daunting. It all felt a bit abstract as it’s such a new way of working. But I think once we had the training and played around with the training platform it all started to make sense. Doing it rather than just talking about it helped a million.
Q: How do you see the service developing with online therapy in the next years?
At the moment we have 5 modules that we are starting with: Panic Disorder, Depression, Work stress, Learn to Relax and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In terms of moving forward from here, we would like to increase the modules that we are offering to clients across our step-2 and step-3 pathways. But as I mentioned earlier, finding ways to also offer online modules to the Sri-Lankan and Polish population in the future would be great too.
Click here to read about what's available on iCope online and how to access the platform. On the website you can find a link to their self-test from where the Kingston service can let you know what support may be best for you.
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