Psychological therapies and interventions specification

Specification setting out the aims to improve the delivery of psychological therapies and interventions for everyone accessing and delivering these across Scotland.


There is no health without psychological health.

Our recently published Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy sets out the vision of a Scotland, free from stigma and inequality, where everyone fulfils their right to achieve the best mental health and wellbeing possible. In delivering this vision, we recognise that it is essential that the services and support that people need should be built around clear national frameworks.

Over the past few years, we have worked with partners to develop quality standards and specifications for mental health services, setting out clear expectations for what services will look like as they provide high-quality care. This Specification, informed by the principles set out in the Strategy, and our delivery plan, clarifies what that service and support should look like specifically for people accessing psychological therapies and interventions.

Psychological therapies and interventions can help us with both our mental and physical health. Factors in our lives such as our home circumstances; work; education; friendships; our physical health; genetics; financial situation; and community connections can all impact our psychological health. Many of us have also been affected by personal traumas, or wider whole population events such as the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. In recent years, this has led people across Scotland to have more understanding about the importance of psychological health, as well physical health.

We all have a range of psychological needs. Psychological therapies and interventions are proven evidence-based clinical approaches that can make a real difference to the people of Scotland's mental and physical health. This Specification sets out how access to and the quality of psychological service delivery can be improved, and what the people of Scotland can expect. The Specification also describes that providing good trauma informed early intervention can help many of us with our health.

Each year there are around 78,000 referrals for psychological treatments made to services in Scotland, and around 70,000 people access digital psychological therapies. Due to factors, such as demand for services and staffing levels, we know that across Scotland people have different experiences when accessing psychological therapies. We also know that people most disadvantaged in our society, due to social, environmental, societal, or political factors, often experience more difficulties with their mental and physical health and have less access to the most appropriate psychological support.

We want people in Scotland, regardless of their background or circumstances, to have the right choices at the right time when they struggle with their mental or physical health. Psychological evidence-based treatments should be available to help improve quality of life. We also want people to have the tools and support to access more self accessed digital psychological interventions, as well as face to face therapies in person or virtually. We want Scotland to be a world leader in using innovative and evidence based psychological approaches to help promote good mental health for the whole population, prevent mental health difficulties from getting worse, and provide psychological treatments when people need them.

In publishing this Specification, we acknowledge that the workforce plays a critical part of how we provide safe, effective, timely, trauma informed, and compassionate based service delivery. At this time of publication, there has been a 131.6% increase to the psychology workforce since 2007, with record numbers of the wider workforce (e.g., social workers, allied health professionals, doctors, and nurses) trained to deliver psychological treatments. In recent years, over 30,000 learning resources, materials and programmes have been used by staff to help them recognise and educate people on how to support their own psychological wellbeing (e.g., trauma informed care). However, the workforce's capacity to deliver accessible high quality psychological services needs continued focus to meet ongoing need.

We appreciate that implementing this Specification is ambitious, and we know that services are already delivering many of the Specification outcomes. We acknowledge the dedicated work to deliver these. We also recognise that some of these outcomes may take longer for services to fully deliver in the face of ongoing systems pressures. We will work with all services and people who work in them, as well as people with lived and living experience of using services and digital interventions. This means taking a whole systems approach to working jointly with our partners in the third and public sector.

We want to ensure our approach to implementation is as effective and supportive as possible. Given the potential of the quickly changing landscape that affects demand and delivery, as well as new and emerging research and evidence, we will take a phased approach to this, and we have set out clear outcomes to show how this Specification is making a real difference to people's lives.

We want this Specification to serve as an innovative national guide of what high quality psychological care and practice looks like so you know what to expect, and how services should deliver this to meet local needs.

Maree Todd MSP
Minister for Social Care,
Mental Wellbeing and Sport



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