the science of talk
for health.

Our method is warm and relational but we are rigorous about
our science.

What effect does the Talk for Health
programme have?

Results amongst 687 participants show a large rise in wellbeing after the 4-day Talk for Health wellbeing, and reduced depression over the long term. Results are similar to successful therapy.

Talk for Health is highly inclusive. 59% of our intake are from BMER communities, compared to 16% in NHS therapies.

Two-thirds are clinically distressed at intake, with a wide range of diagnoses, from Depression  and Anxiety, to Schizophrenia.

Pre-post programme wellbeing amongst 687 participants has been analysed by a Research Psychologist at Roehampton University using the Outcomes Rating Scale (ORS – Miller 2010). The ORS is a scientific way of measuring wellbeing effects of talking therapies. It is a 40 point scale where a score of less than 25 registers clinical distress. Depression before and after the programme was recently measured amongst 71 participants with the PHQ-9, the standard NHS assessment.

Participants see a large rise in wellbeing after the 4-day Talk for Health programme, and remain free of clinical depression over the long term. Results are similar to successful therapy.

The evidence base behind Talk
for Health.

Talk for Health is based on three powerful evidence-based principles:

(i) That simply having the skills and opportunities to share inner feelings and experiences with supportive others improves mental health and prevents mental illness (Cooper, 2008, p. 75).

(ii) That effective therapeutic talk does not rely on professionals (Christensen and Jacobson, 1994).

(iii) That it is good for mental wellbeing to give as well as receive support (Riessman, 1990).

Professional therapy has an important place, but Talk for Health addresses its key problems: – 1 in 4 experience mental distress per year in UK and 75% of them get no help – NHS talking therapy reaches only 20% of people who need it – Most sufferers end up on pills, which are causing more harm than good (United Nations, 2017).
Decades of evidence have demonstrated that, with a bit of skill, lay people achieve equivalent results to seasoned therapy professionals.

By harnessing the power of lay people, Talk for Health enables a sustainable future for therapeutic talk, making it accessible to all over the long term.

It is therapeutic talk which cures.  This doesn’t have to be professional therapy.

“It is talking which cures, and not particular therapeutic schools and their preferred techniques” (Professor Howe, 1993).

Professor Howe’s conclusions are supported by hundreds of experiments comparing the effectiveness of professional therapists with empathic lay people.  These show that lay people get just as good therapy outcomes  (Jacobsen and Christensen 1994).

Loneliness is a key cause of mental illness. It’s also as bad for your physical health as smoking. (Hawkley and Cacioppo 2007).  The antidote to loneliness is good quality connections.

Good quality connections are those where we can show our vulnerability. 

“It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters – how much vulnerability and depth exists within them.”  Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

At Talk for Health, we create a safe space for people to show vulnerability. People share what they really feel and get non-judgemental responses.

We offer regular whole-community events (‘Specials’), where people socialise and learn new skills to support themselves and others.

An academic study of social interventions including Talk for Health found:

– Creating community bonds has a more far reaching impact on wellbeing than targeting troubled individuals.

– Talk for Health is particularly effective in this respect.

The Authors recommended that Health and Wellbeing Boards and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) should set aside funding for interventions like Talk for Health to improve wellbeing, build resilient communities, and create savings in public expenditure.

The Royal Society of Arts report Community Capital: The Value of ConnectedCommunities (2015).

The RSA report and Talk for Health-produced papers are attached below.

Annual report
Talk for Health 2008 pilot
Talk for Health Keynote, Nottingham University
Loneliness article on Talk for Health
Psych minded Article on Talk for Health
RSA report and summary
List of key references