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WHO launches new manual to support delivery of psychological interventions

GENEVA, Switzerland – The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a new manual to support the implementation of psychological interventions.

By providing practical guidance on how to implement psychological interventions, this guide will help increase access to evidence-based interventions so that more people can benefit from them. The manual focuses on evidence-based psychological intervention manuals delivered by a non-specialist workforce.

Bridging the ‘treatment gap’

Globally, 1 in 8 people experience a mental health condition, with depression and anxiety among the most common. Yet most receive no treatment. This might be because of a lack of services or because services are limited in capacity, inaccessible or unaffordable. Often stigma stops people from seeking help in the first place.

Psychological interventions have a crucial role in helping to reduce the vast treatment gap between the high prevalence of mental health conditions and limited access to adequate care.

Often psychological interventions are delivered in person, by mental health specialists. But there is now significant evidence to show that brief, manualized versions of psychological interventions can also be effectively delivered by trained and supervised non-specialists, using individual, group or self-help approaches.

Based on established psychological treatments, such as behavioural activation, stress management, problem-solving therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal therapy, evidence-based psychological interventions provided by non-specialists are highly effective in treating many mental health conditions, particularly depression and anxiety. They can be delivered in many settings, including in low- and middle-income countries and are likely more scalable than psychological treatments delivered by specialists.

Integrating psychological interventions in existing services

Integrating manualized psychological interventions into health, social, protection, rehabilitation, and education services, could greatly increase access to quality mental health care.

Targeted at service managers and planners the new implementation manual complements WHO’s series of low-intensity psychological interventions by providing practical guidance on how to choose and deliver the most appropriate psychological intervention within a given context or setting.

It suggests implementation within existing services can be divided into five key steps: make an implementation plan; adapt for context; prepare the workforce; identify, assess, and support potential beneficiaries; and monitor and evaluate the service. The manual gives detailed guidance on the activities required at each step.

All activities are designed to be delivered in collaboration and coordination with community stakeholders, including people with lived experience, to ensure the interventions are relevant and accessible to those who need them most.



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