Improving the delivery of psychological therapies and interventions

A specification has been developed to improve the delivery of psychological therapies and interventions in Scotland. It has been created by the Scottish Government after engaging with a number of partners, as well as people with lived experience. The aim is to improve the delivery of these assessments and treatments.

What are psychological therapies and interventions?

Psychological therapies and interventions are evidence-based treatments that can help improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Some examples of psychological therapies and interventions are:

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

You can learn more about different treatments in the Psychological Therapies Matrix.

What is covered by the specification?

Psychological treatments are delivered as part of a range of NHS and Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) services. This specification covers services delivered by appropriately trained professionals working in these areas, in hospital and community settings.

At the moment, this specification doesn’t cover people employed by Local Authorities or the third sector. The Scottish Government aims to work with these organisations on the delivery of psychological therapies.

What does the specification aim to achieve?

There’s already a standard in place for measuring waiting times for psychological therapies and interventions – this new specification focuses on improving the quality of these treatments.

Having a specification means there is detailed guidance for everyone delivering these treatments. It outlines what people should expect when they’re receiving a psychological therapy or intervention, and what services and teams can do to improve the experience.

Psychological care and psychological practice

The specification covers two main areas: psychological care and psychological practice.

Psychological care

This is a term for the psychological approaches professionals use to support people with their own mental health. This type of care is designed to help you stay well and manage your own wellbeing.

Psychological practice

Psychological practice is a term for psychological therapies that are proven to work well. These treatments are provided to people with more complex mental health needs, to help them improve their quality of life.

As part of the specification, there are seven outcomes for psychological practice:

High quality care and support that is right for me

This outcome focuses on treatment being provided by people who are appropriately trained. You should be supported to access different types of evidence-based help.

Read more about this outcome

I am fully involved in decisions about my care

Treatment you receive should be tailored to your needs, and you should be able to play a part in your care.

Read more about this outcome

High-quality interventions and treatments that are right for me

This outcome focuses on making sure you get the best treatments for your needs. The Psychological Therapies Matrix is the main guide for the delivery of psychological therapies in Scotland – it was designed by NHS Education for Scotland and the Scottish Government. The Matrix outlines what treatments should be offered, and its aim is to ensure everyone receives evidence-based care that’s right for them.

Read more about this outcome

My rights are acknowledged, respected and delivered

You should be a partner in your care, and play an active role in how decisions are made and goals are set. This outcome outlines the importance of a person-centred approach that respects your values, your rights, and who you are as an individual.

Read more about this outcome

I am fully involved in planning and agreeing my transitions

It can be challenging to move between care providers when receiving psychological therapies. This outcome sets the expectation that if you have to change services, your care teams will work to make the process as straightforward as they can. When possible, your care team should try to make sure you see the same people at every appointment.

Read more about this outcome

We fully involve people, their families and carers

This outcome highlights that your family, friends, and carers can be important to your care. If you consent to them being involved, your support network could be part of your treatment planning.

Read more about this outcome

I have confidence in the staff who support me

This outcome outlines that you should feel confident the people and services involved in your treatment have the right qualifications. It should be clear that your care team has the most appropriate skills, and that effective supervision is in place. If you’re seeing more than one professional, they should be communicating clearly with each other.

Read more about this outcome

Putting the specification in place

The specification sets out what the delivery of high quality psychological therapies and interventions looks like. Services are working on implementing the specification outcomes – a lot of them are already in place, while some will take longer. The Scottish Government will continue supporting services to deliver these treatments and make improvements where needed.

Read about how progress on the specification will be measured and monitored

What to do you if you have a complaint about your care

It will take time to put all of the outcomes of the specification in place. However, you’re still entitled to talk to your care providers if there are things to do with your care that you feel unhappy about.

The first thing to do if you have a concern or complaint is talk to your GP or the other health professionals involved in your care. Issues can often be resolved quickly once they’ve been discussed, and your care team should listen and take your concerns seriously.

If your care team is unable to assist, or you’re unhappy with their response, you may wish to raise the issue with your local health board.

Every health board has a different complaints process.

Learn more about the specification

For more information about the specification for the delivery of psychological therapies and interventions, contact the Scottish Government at

Last updated:
14 February 2024