Background Psychotherapy in Ireland remains, by and large, a privatised caring profession with only glimpses of its use in the public health system starting to happen in the last year or so.
Mental health issues affect every social class but are more prevalent among people of lower socio-economic status. This is for a range of reasons including the increased financial and social stressors experienced by that group. People in this group lack the funds to pay for private health care and are therefore at the hands of the public health system.
Ireland in the last twenty years has seen the energetic rise of the Celtic tiger as well as its ugly fall from grace, pushing many individuals and families into the lower socio-economic status bracket. The rise in poverty has seen many people give up their private health insurance. Moreover, this rise in poverty has seen a rise in mental health issues. GPs play a key role in the treatment of these issues as they see the majority of mental health problems in primary care. With more and more research being produced supporting the efficacy of psychotherapy for a wide range of mental health issues, it appears that there is a natural fit for the development of a good relationship between GPs and psychotherapy.
Aim The aim of this research is to examine where psychotherapy fits as a treatment option within the Irish health system focusing on the relationship between psychotherapy and GPs. Gaining information about GPs experience of psychotherapy and the health system as a whole will give clarity on how to strengthen the relationship.
Methods Semi-structured interviews were carried out with five GPs. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results There is a division between private patients being able to afford private psychotherapy fees and public patients. There is a similar division between GPs who mainly deal with private patients versus public patients. Furthermore there is a lack of understanding about psychotherapy among GPs but at the same time know that it is beneficial to patients.
Conclusion GPs play a key role in managing mental health patients and therefore referring patients for psychotherapy. Further education is needed for GPs to fully understand the benefits of psychotherapy and the types of patients they can refer for psychotherapy.