HUNDREDS of therapy sessions for depression and anxiety are carried out online by mental health patients in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

NHS Digital figures show that NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG held 485 video appointments and 240 online therapy sessions in December.

With the online therapy approach, known as internet enabled therapy, much of the learning required to help people deal with emotional difficulties can be achieved by them working through materials on the internet with ongoing contact with a therapist.

This could be by telephone or secure messaging, to provide encouragement, clarify misunderstandings and enhance learning.

Mental health charity Mind said online therapy is beneficial to some people, however it should not become a substitute for face-to-face support.

While phone appointments were the single most popular medium used to hold talking therapies with 2,600 appointments during the period, patients were also able to access support via email or messaging services 200 times. There were also 930 face-to-face appointments recorded in December.

The recording of online appointments data has recently been introduced and some health organisations may be underreporting them.Leila Reyburn, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said: “For some people, accessing therapy digitally is preferable, because they don’t have to travel to appointments or prefer to access support from the comfort of their own home rather than a clinical setting, for example.

“But for others, remote appointments can themselves be a source of anxiety, especially if we’re not used to talking to people over video or phone.

“We might also be worried about sharing personal and confidential information relating to our mental health, particularly if we live in a small space with other people and are worried about being overheard.

“We’ve also heard from many people who say that they find it more difficult to build up a trusting relationship with a therapist over phone or online than face-to-face.” She added that it was important people were given a choice in how to access services.

During the pandemic, Mind secured a commitment from the Government that mental health services continued to deliver face-to-face support, especially for those with severe mental illness.

Across England, 14,000 appointments were held face-to-face in December, while there were 76,400 video appointments and 37,700 internet enabled therapy sessions.

A spokesman for the NHS said: “The NHS has been open to people with concerns about their mental health throughout the pandemic, including through talking therapy sessions which the public can self-refer onto for both face-to-face and online sessions.

“Referrals have been rapidly increasing recently and anyone who needs help should come forward for NHS support.”