GP burnout: Online CBT an effective treatment for distressed doctors

By Claire Lynn - 09 September 2013

About half of GPs are on the brink of emotional burnout according to research from the Department of Health and concerned by these reports, PsychologyOnline has launched an initiative at the Mental Health Forum to encourage more GPs to access its confidential online therapy service Thinkwell™.

Thinkwell therapy is delivered one-on-one with a qualified psychologist, via a text-based instant messaging conversation, in a secure online consulting room.

Clinical trials published in The Lancet demonstrated that this method of delivering therapy is fast, effective and convenient. GPs can fit the sessions around their busy schedules at a time that suits them, including evenings and weekends. They can access the service from anywhere with an internet connection – all they need is a computer and a quiet space.

Barnaby Perks, chief executive at PsychologyOnline, says: “Doctors are often reluctant to address issues with their own mental health.  Our service is discreet and confidential. Users can keep their therapy to themselves, managing their recovery with their therapist without having to visit a consulting room for face to face therapy sessions.”

PsychologyOnline’s use of instant messaging allows the system to be technically simple (it works on even slow internet connections) and easy to use. It also helps users to overcome inhibition.

Therapy patients who can’t see or hear their therapist often disclose personal thoughts and feelings much more readily than they would in face-to-face encounters, leading to faster recovery.

The effectiveness of PsychologyOnline’s therapy was demonstrated in a 300 patient clinical trial published in The Lancet in 2009.  An average of just six sessions of online therapy was needed for recovery for patients suffering from moderate to severe depression.  This compares well with the 10 to 12 session average for face-to-face therapy.  Follow up client assessments at four and eight months confirmed that the benefits were maintained.

The service is now available to NHS patients in certain areas, including by direct GP referral in five clinical commissioning group areas in Surrey and to patients in the Isle of Wight and Norfolk.  However, people can still access therapy via the company’s private pay Thinkwell service.

Mr Perks continues: “The best way for GPs to assess the effectiveness of our therapy is to try it for themselves. We are offering half price initial consultations and 10% off subsequent appointments to any GPs who register for therapy with Thinkwell™.”

GPs can benefit from a discounted rate by sending an email to with the code POL-GP-X913 in the subject line. 

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