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Couple therapy is a waste of valuable NHS money

  • 4 Comments

We visited our allotment yesterday to find that our fish are missing.

We had four of them in a little pond and, frankly, we haven’t seen them for a while. I rather hoped they had grown legs and wandered off toward the library but my daughter said this was a silly thing to hope for because, if they had, the foxes would have got them and anyway the library is shut.

Then my wife found a dead rat and insisted I “do something with it”.

“Like what?” I asked wondering why I am in charge of dead rats. “Turn it into gloves? Play it at scrabble? Take it waterskiing?”

“You’re not big and you’re not clever,” she said. “Get rid of the rat.”

But I’ll be honest, I don’t know what to do with a dead rat. I feel I should. I feel a “proper” man would know. And he’d know where the fish were.

Anyway we argued about what to do with dead rats and I buried it quite near the artichokes. I thought it was better than her suggestion which amounted to grating it and sprinkling it on the dahlias. Of course the argument continued. She said I lost the fish. I said she killed a rat. Words were said, artichokes were thrown. But it’s OK - we probably won’t need counselling. Which is good because if we did we might be able to waste NHS resources to get it.

‘My friend’s 14 year old daughter had an argument with a boy recently about the colour blue. I’m wondering, is there a number she can call?’

In a speech last week health secretary Andy Burnham said, “When couples hit a rocky patch, a bit of help and support can stop it spiralling out of control - that is why I want couple therapy to be more widely available on the NHS.”

Indeed Andy and why stop with married people? My friend’s 14 year old daughter had an argument with a boy recently about the colour blue. I’m wondering, is there a number she can call?

The idea of making therapy more widely available is part of the increasing access to psychological therapies initiative introduced two years ago to provide treatment to people who are ill. It is a good initiative that will save money on unnecessary prescribing and provide appropriate treatment for a range of problems. But these are health problems, not treatments for dissatisfaction.

There’s a difference between recognising the usefulness of some therapies for people who may have a mental health problem and imagining that every activity of life - from falling out to being sad - must be pathologised and treated by a smug bloke in an expensive chair.

If we cannot afford cancer drugs we cannot afford relationship counselling. There may be someone somewhere suggesting that saving marriages makes some kind of weird economic sense but they are probably a therapist looking for work. If we want to maintain a health service - one that attends to the needs of people with cancer, depression or dementia - we need to protect it from the vagaries of therapy culture and political guesswork. The NHS treats ill health not unhappiness and it already has plenty to spend its money on.

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • well trivialised that man, round of applause!! now, once more, try again with feeling.

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  • I couldn't agree more with Mike - its about time the Government started to think about the difference between health and illness and stopped wasting limited resources on things that lie outside those arena - like relationship counselling. If we waste our resources then we will only find more restrictions on the health promotion and health care that we can provide.

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  • oh pleasse not Andy Burnham again!!! we are to have our pay capped and this nonsense is going to be funded!!

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  • Personally I think Andy Burnham needs some form of Psychological intervention himself as he appears to be living in cloud cuckoo land at present! Also, hasnt he heard of Relate?

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