GP blog: The benefits of day programmes in the treatment of mental health difficulties

Group programmes or day programmes can be of benefit in the treatment of ongoing mental health difficulties.

Programme Manager here at St Patrick's Mental Health Services (SPMHS), Edel Fortune, explores this topic, and gives an overview of day services available here at SPMHS.

Overview of day services at SPMHS

Overview of day services at SPMHS

Through our Wellness and Recovery Centre, SPMHS runs a number of day programmes which GPs can refer to. Patients do not need to be under the care of an SPMHS consultant to be referred to these programmes.

Day services at SPMHS include all programmes that are attended by service users post-discharge or for people referred directly (by GPs, a Dean Clinic, or other external referrers) to attend a day programme. In 2021, 1,780 people attended a day programme.

These day programmes are delivered through group care, and many are currently being delivered through Microsoft Teams (MS Teams), which now gives our service users across the country more flexibility to attend programmes.

Benefits of day services

Benefits of day services

There are many reasons why day services are beneficial to service users in their mental health recovery journeys. Day programmes provide education to service users on their diagnosis in a supportive environment where people learn not only from the group facilitator, but also from other group members. Group programmes provide recovery skills, symptom-management skills and relapse prevention.

Programme structures

Programme structures

Day programmes are either diagnosis-specific or skills-based, and typically have up to 12 participants with one or two facilitators. Most group programmes are delivered through technology-mediated interventions (TMI), with some phone support.

Our day programmes fall into the following categories:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) day programmes
  • addiction service day programmes
  • recovery-focused day programmes
  • psychology-based programmes
  • eating disorders day programmes.

GPs can refer directly to the programmes below.

CBT-based programmes

Depression Recovery Programme

This is a 10-week psychotherapy group programme run by a team of cognitive behavioural therapists and specialist mental healthcare practitioners, offering education and support for people diagnosed with depression, or who experience symptoms associated with depression. The programme offers the opportunity to gain an understanding of depression, equipping the service user with the tools necessary to effectively manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Bipolar Disorder Programme

This 10-week programme is run by a team of cognitive behavioural therapists and specialist mental healthcare practitioners. The programme offers support and education to people diagnosed with bipolar disorder or experiencing symptoms linked with the disorder. It gives an opportunity to gain an understanding of bipolar disorder and empowers service users with the necessary tools to manage their symptoms and improve life quality.

Recovery-based programmes

Recovery Programme

The Recovery Programme, which is guided by wellness recovery action planning (WRAP), provides high levels of support, motivation and education for service users with various mental health diagnoses. This group programme promotes positive mental health management and relapse prevention.

Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a 12-week programme focusing on how to manage thoughts and emotions more effectively, with an emphasis on mindfulness skills and connecting with values. Each week, service users learn new skills to help them deal with difficulties experienced in daily life.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR takes place one evening per week over eight weeks and is delivered by mindfulness clinicians who are mental health professionals with experience in CBT. The programme includes relaxations techniques, some ACT, and symptom management.

Eating disorder programmes     

Eating Disorder Programme

The Eating Disorders Day Programme provides care for people over the age of 18 with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED) or binge eating disorder. Admission to the day programme is either directly as a step-down from inpatient care for an eating disorder or step-up from outpatient care. This programme is an alternative to hospitalisation for people with a body mass index (BMI) over 16.5 who need extra support, but can manage with a less intensive treatment. The medical, psychological and nutritional needs of the service user are assessed, and an individual care plan is developed with the service user.

Compassion-Focused Therapy for Eating Disorders (CFT-E)

CFT-E is useful for people with a diagnosis of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified, who are experiencing feelings of shame, guilt and self-criticism. This programme includes psychoeducation for the service user and for friends and family, as well as skills training, therapeutic intervention, and aftercare.



Some day programmes include aftercare on a fortnightly or monthly basis for a defined period of time after the programme ends. These include ACT, the Recovery Programme, the Bipolar Programme and the Depression Recovery Programme.

Referral process and criteria

Referral process and criteria

In order for GPs to refer to a day programme, the person must have a diagnosis of, or be being treated for, a recognised mental health difficulty.

If referring a patient to a day programme, the referrer retains clinical responsibility for the service user while they are attending an SPMHS day programme. The person must have health insurance cover or have approved funding.

GPs can refer through Healthlink or Healthmail, or contact our Referral and Assessment Service by emailing or phoning 01 249 3635.

For more information, see our booklet below or contact Programme Manager, Edel Fortune, by emailing

Get our day programmes leaflet

Get our day programmes leaflet

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