Carers’ views on psychosocial treatments and Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT)

Some carers discussed the access of the person being cared for to a range of non-pharmaceutical treatments. This Talking Point describes carers’ views on the place of these approaches in the person cared for’s treatment, how successful they thought they were and other treatments they would like to have available for the person being cared for.

Talking therapies

Some carers felt that talking therapies (referred to generally as counselling by many) were very beneficial to the person cared for. A few carers described Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness meditation as particularly helpful for the person being cared for; these therapies were received both in hospital and in private health care and undertaken by psychiatrists and psychologists. Ballagh’s son, for example, did mindfulness exercises as part of his day program at a public hospital and found it relaxing.

Lisa felt that ‘talking’ therapy was often most effective for her brother. She said that although resources were so ‘skint’ in public hospitals, they were making more use of talking therapies.

Julie’s daughter received cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) from her psychologist, which gave her ‘insight’ into her experiences and greater ability to share this with others.

Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT)

Electroconvulsive Treatment is a medical procedure where a titrated dose of electricity is administered through paddles applied to specific areas on the head to induce controlled seizures. The recipient receives a brief general anaesthetic.

Having ECT suggested as treatment for the person being cared for by mental health practitioners was described as confronting by all carers who had experience of this. One carer, Tracey, was not aware that it was still performed as a treatment and, similar to other carers, only knew the procedure ‘from the movies’. While a few carers knew this was likely to be an inaccurate portrayal of the procedure, for them it was nonetheless ‘alarming’.

In the case of Lisa’s brother, being a compulsory patient meant that neither she nor her brother felt they were sufficiently informed about ECT, because Lisa said a nurse advised her that practitioners did not legally have to consult them in the decision. ECT was proposed a number of times to Tracey’s partner who considered having the procedure because she said she did not ‘feel like anything was going to help’. Tracey and her partner made the decision together not to go ahead with the procedure. Looking back, Tracey said they both felt that this had been the right decision.

Lisa was initially uncomfortable with the thought of ECT and her brother did not want it. Eventually he agreed to it and she said that ‘clinically’ it made ‘a really big difference’ for him.

Tracey had a significant role in her partner’s decision not to have ECT.