Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy New Campaign Highlights the Importance of Human Connection in Therapy Over Digital Tools

New Campaign Highlights the Importance of Human Connection in Therapy Over Digital Tools

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The National Counselling & Psychotherapy Society (NCPS) and the Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB) are announcing their new joint campaign. Titled “Therapeutic Relationships: the Human Connection” and supported by online research via YouGov, the campaign aims to inform members of the public, commissioners of mental health support services, and the Government about the importance of human connection in therapy provision and training as a counterpoint to the increasing use of digital distance learning and mental health support in the public and private sectors.

AI and digital tools are growing in the mental health sector, with chatbots and apps being marketed as accessible alternatives to traditional therapy and increasing uptake of these innovations in public spaces, as well as publicly funded therapy training that requires little-to-no human contact. 

A significant increase in online training (entirely distance learning, without any live tutor or peer interaction), which is marketed as a quick and easy digital alternative to practical interactive counselling or psychotherapy training, is misleading people about their competence, employability, ability to access further training, and ability to meet professional association requirements and so safely and ethically practice as a counsellor or psychotherapist.

While digital tools offer potential as supportive resources, research commissioned by the NCPS through YouGov shows that a huge 80% of people in the UK are not likely to consider interacting with an AI chatbot over a human being for a therapy session. In the same poll, the lack of human empathy from chatbots and a preference for a personal connection were common reasons cited for people to not consider ChatBots for therapy sessions.

The vast majority (79%) of people agree that counselling & psychotherapy services are essential for mental health support, and so commissioners should be taking pains to ensure that human practitioners, appropriately trained to work directly with people, remain a key part of the mental health workforce. 

The NCPS and CPCAB therefore urge government stakeholders and commissioners of mental health training and support services to prioritise the inimitable impact of the human connection. They are asking for the following from government and commissioners:

  • Prioritise human practitioners. Ensure public funding and policies for mental health support, increase access to trained therapists and emphasise the therapeutic relationship. This includes appropriately allocating government funding for counselling training.
  • Establish guidelines and transparency. Create clear guidelines for digital tools, highlighting their limitations. Ensure service providers disclose the use of AI or digital tools, empowering service users to make informed decisions about their care.
  • Invest in infrastructure and research. Provide timely access to effective, human-centred support from qualified therapists by investing in infrastructure and research to meet the needs of those commissioning services.
  • Improve regulatory scrutiny. Enhance regulatory scrutiny of the delivery of live guided learning hours, ensuring compliance with established regulatory definitions.

Jyles Robillard-Day, CEO of the NCPS, said: “While digital tools have their place, nothing can replace the empathy, trust, and depth of relationship that comes from a genuine connection with a therapist. We’re asking policymakers to prioritise funding, transparency, and research that puts humans at the heart of mental health support, making sure that everyone has access to the care they need”.

Kelly Budd, Chief Professional Standards Officer of the CPCAB, said: “Human-centred training that includes human interaction will always be key for effective therapy. Creating competent, safe and compassionate practitioners is at the heart of what we do, and we are committed to providing future counsellors with the ability to make informed choices about the type of training that will meet their goals”.

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