What’s in a name? NHS Talking Therapies, for anxiety and depression – the new name for IAPT services

As clinical advisors who have worked on expanding psychological therapies across our careers, we are delighted that Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services are being renamed as NHS Talking Therapies, for anxiety and depression, following a public consultation.

In 2008 new NHS IAPT services were launched that made a simple promise to the public – to provide effective psychological therapies to far more people experiencing the most common mental health problems: anxiety and depression. Immediately before this the average waiting time for psychological therapy on the NHS was 18 months. Now it is just a few weeks. The new services had three qualities embedded: that they would provide psychological therapies recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, with well-trained and supervised therapists, and would track and publish outcomes for every service. This promise remains the same, although the name of services is changing.

Thanks to the work of many, there have been great successes. As we enter the 15th Anniversary Year of these services there is a lot for patients, clinicians, educators and policymakers to be proud of. Since 2008 the services have provided a course of treatment to over 6.5 million people, with 665,187 treated in the last year alone. Around 50% of those receiving a course of therapy fully recover, with many more showing substantial improvement, results which were maintained even during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over time, the services have moved closer to equality of outcomes for all ethnicities. The services aim to be flexible, with patients often offered a choice between different effective treatments and how the treatments are delivered. We now have over 10,000 therapists and practitioners employed in the services, and employment advisors being rolled out in all areas. These advisors support people with anxiety and depression to pursue their goals for employment.

Over the years, however, we have been aware that naming the services “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies” is not the most appealing or clear. The name described a policy ambition but said little about the nature of the service. Because of this, many services developed unique local names. Although understandable, this meant it was not always obvious to the public that services delivering the IAPT promise were available in every part of the country.

Anxiety and depression are very common difficulties and many of those experiencing them have not found their way to an IAPT service yet, despite all services allowing you to refer yourself without seeing your GP first. Many of those who do find their way to services are looking for help with other difficulties that the services are not set up to treat, such as psychosis or complex emotional needs associated with a diagnosis of “personality disorder”. These problems are better tackled by other services, where psychological therapies are also being expanded. We wanted a new name that was appealing and supported people finding the right service for them, first time.

So, we are excited about our new name NHS Talking Therapies, for anxiety and depression. This was chosen after a public consultation with close to 4,000 responses and a series of focus groups led by an independent research group. All services will carry this title, demonstrating their alignment to the promise that we make to the public. The new name gives us a great opportunity to renew our information for the public about these services, to show that they are available to help and what they offer.

We wanted to reflect on what’s in our new name:


These are NHS commissioned services and are free at the point of access. You are unlikely to wait more than a few weeks for an initial meeting with a skilled practitioner.

Talking Therapies:

This term was strongly preferred by patients and the public. It is a shorthand for the range of psychological therapies and interventions that the services offer. Within NHS Talking Therapies services most of the psychological therapy will be quite practical. It may involve working through self-help materials with guidance from a clinician, possibly via a dedicated online platform (which we call ‘digitally enabled therapies’). It may involve help with problem solving skills or practical exercises to examine and overcome your fears. It may involve facing and working through traumatic memories in a safe way. It is likely to involve suggestions to follow through between therapy sessions. And, of course, it will involve talking – in a focused way that helps things to change.

for anxiety and depression:

NHS Talking Therapies services can help with the following common problems with anxiety and depression:

  • agoraphobia
  • body dysmorphic disorder
  • depression
  • generalised anxiety disorder
  • health anxiety
  • mixed depression and anxiety
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • panic disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • social anxiety disorder
  • specific phobias (such as heights, flying, spiders etc.).

These problems may present themselves in a whole variety of different ways. Everyone is different. You don’t need a “diagnosis” to come for therapy, a skilled practitioner will help work out with you whether and how the service can help.

Our new name gives us an opportunity to raise the profile of our services. We invite you to join us in spreading the word about the new name for these vital services, and what they offer, so that they can reach and help even more people. NHS Talking Therapies, for anxiety and depression services can help with a whole range of difficulties with anxiety and depression – you can refer yourself or talk to your GP. You can find your local service on the website. They are also great places to work for existing therapists and recognised care professionals who can train to become therapists. We also encourage people to join our services and train as practitioners. Be part of the movement to make psychological therapies available to all who can benefit!

David Clark

Professor David M Clark is Clinical and Informatics Advisor: NHS Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression, NHS England.

Professor David M Clark holds the Chair of Experimental Psychology at University of Oxford and is the National Clinical and Informatics Advisor for the NHS Talking Therapies Programme. Along with Lord Richard Layard and other colleagues, he is one of the original architects of the programme.

He is well-known for his research on the understanding and treatment of anxiety disorders, especially panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Recognition of his work includes Lifetime Achievement Awards from the British Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association.

Dr Adrian Whittington

Adrian is the National Clinical Lead for the Psychological Professions at NHS England. In this role, Adrian provides professional leadership and advice across the national NHS teams aimed at maximising the impact of the psychological professions for the public and delivering the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan.

He is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist. He is passionate about making the NHS more psychological, including increasing access to evidence-based psychological interventions and therapies.

Adrian also co-chairs the Psychological Professions Network England Board. Adrian is a clinical specialist in psychological therapy for post-traumatic stress Disorder.

He has written and co-edited books on anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy, and clinical psychology.

LinkedIn – Adrian Whittington

Twitter – @ASWhittington