We know from talking to our members that mental health is top of mind for both doctors and members of the community alike. Tackling this problem will require significant resources which aren’t always available to family doctors. Many individuals experiencing health issues like depression or anxiety can fall through the cracks. To help, the Vancouver Division has been providing resources and partnership to the CBT Skills Group, an effective and exciting program designed to provide education and healing to patients who don’t qualify for medication or referral to psychiatry.
According to Justin Ho, Director of Membership Engagement and Collaboration at Vancouver Division, better support in this area is a priority.
“Family doctors and other team members have told us that resources are needed,” says Ho. “With this in mind, Vancouver Division has been working with the CBT Skills Group to deliver solutions that provide value to doctors as well as patients.”
The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Skills Group offers MSP-funded, online group therapy sessions to adults who are experiencing moderate depression, anxiety, or other lower-acuity mental health issues.
“Mental health can be improved when patients are taught to recognize, understand, and manage patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving,” explains Ho. “The CBT Skills Group facilitates learning while providing participants with valuable tools.”
The program was designed by psychiatrists and is taught by physicians, integrating neuroscience, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioural therapy skills and concepts.
“Vancouver Division is supporting this initiative by providing resources and expertise which assist in strategic development and marketing,” says Ho. “We’re listening to our doctors and providing help where it’s needed.”
One doctor who sees the value of the initiative is Dr. Christine Singh. “The process really works well,” she says. “For patients with mental health concerns, these skills are so important.”
Singh has been impressed with the way the program has been conceived and run.
“I believe that it’s rooted in altruism,” she says. “I’ve recently taken the course myself and I really appreciate the approach my colleagues have taken. They’re kind, compassionate, experienced, skilled, and enthusiastic. I really feel that it’s coming from a good place.”
As Dr. Singh sees it, the group aspect of the program is a key component of its success.
“Patients with mental health issues can feel very isolated,” she says. “They may have cognitive distortions where they believe that no one else shares their experience. When they get involved with a group, they realize that these thinking patterns are common. Suddenly they’re not alone.”
The program offers therapeutic value within the confines of a safe circle. Dr. Singh believes that connection and understanding are part of the healing process.
“Mental health is often about disconnection and feeling outside,” she says. “I think this program allows people to realize that they can participate in other groups as well. It allows people to move on with a level of social skills that go beyond CBT.”
The CBT Skills Group values accessibility, offering scheduling alternatives that meet as many people’s needs as possible. The course is currently available throughout British Columbia in an online format.
“I think the virtual version is great,” says Dr. Singh. “It allows a lot of different people to gain access.”
Not only is the program responsive to patients, but to practitioners as well. At the conclusion of the patient’s experience their doctor receives a feedback report, allowing them to stay current with the patient’s progress.
Vancouver Division’s partnership with CBT Skills Group is just another example of our ongoing efforts to address the needs and concerns voiced by our members.
“It’s important to raise awareness about mental health and to offer resources that can be used to address the issue,” says Ho. “That’s exactly what our involvement with this initiative seeks to accomplish.”
According to Dr. Singh, the program hits the mark.
“As family doctors, we don’t always have enough time to really do this work ourselves,” she says. “I feel confident making referrals to this program. It’s a real game-changer for my practice and my patients.”
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