Frequently asked questions



Would I have to come off all my medication to come to the Complex Needs Service (CNS)?

No. We will generally advise you to continue psychotropic medication (medicine that affects your mental state) such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilisers if the benefits and indications are clear. Once you are in the treatment parts of the service (particularly the medium and high intensity programmes, the therapeutic communities) we will look with you at which are continuing to be useful; many people reduce or stop their medication during treatment but by no means all. Tranquillisers, such as Valium (diazepam) would need to be stopped while you are in the Options group, as they interfere with emotional learning; we can help you with this. There is a leaflet available entitled ‘Medication and alcohol/drugs policy in the Complex Needs Service’ which sets this out in more detail.

Would I have to attend every day? What about people who work or with childcare responsibilities?

The high intensity service in Oxford meets on Monday and Wednesday from 9.15am to 1.00pm, and on Tuesday from 9.15 to 2.30pm, which generally leaves enough time to drop off and pick up school age children. The Aylesbury service meets on Monday and Friday all day. The medium intensity services in Adderbury (nr Banbury), High Wycombe and Witney are part time and many people attending will be working part time or have young children. The same goes for the low intensity services.

 Does all treatment involve group work?

After the information group you will be offered an individual assessment. All substantial treatment occurs in groups. Group work can enable people to work on and shift more difficult issues that have often remained problematic after individual therapy; indications from research are that interventions for personality disorder that do not involve groups are less effective.

We have all spent substantial parts of our lives in groups – in families, at school, with friends, or at work. If you are nervous of groups there are various ways we can help: some of the groups are very structured (follow preset agendas with clear expectations), which might be less stressful; staff can meet with you individually as you are getting used to being in a group;  and you can request to meet with someone who has previously been a member of one of the groups to put your mind at rest. If you want to speak to someone about individual therapy we can give you details of Psychological Services in Oxfordshire.

Will attending CNS put my benefits at risk?

For most people, no. If there is an issue with benefits then staff and members of the programme you are attending will assist you in resolving any problems that arise, and the member of staff you meet when you first come can also put you in contact with someone who will be able to help. There are people in the programme on all types of benefits.

 Would I have to talk about past abuse if I came to the service?

For some people this is important, for others less so. If you feel you have dealt with this you may be able to make progress without dealing with it further. Some of the low intensity services in particular target symptoms without looking to investigate very early causes. The important thing is to be willing to think about where your remaining difficulties may be coming from.

Would I have to give up all my destructive behaviours? Self harm, excessive drinking, drugs and so on.

If you are doing things that put you at risk or make you feel bad about yourself we will help you think about these and their effect on you, as well as why you might be tempted to do them. This is an area to work on if you join one of the treatment programmes. We would help you work towards changing them, rather than demand you stop them.

Is there any support after the 18 months in therapy?

There is an active ‘Moving on’ programme, follow the link above to find out more about this.  Ex members also get involved in training professionals and sometimes in clinical work. Please see the leaflet entitled ‘Tier IV: the moving on group’ and ‘STARS, and follow the link above.

Would I have to stop seeing my Community Mental Health Team/CPN/Social worker if I joined one of the treatment programmes?

Care transfers from a Community Mental Health Team (if you have one) three months after you join one of the medium or high intensity parts of the service (therapeutic communities). While you are deciding if this is for you care should continue as normal.

 I am addicted to alcohol or street drugs, could I still come?

You can join one of the preparatory groups even before you start to tackle these kinds of problem, although you won’t be able to attend while under the influence, or bring alcohol or drugs onto the premises. We will help you get your use of alcohol under control, and stop drug use, in order to join the therapy groups. The member of staff you meet initially will also be able to point you in the direction of other services that can help if you feel you need it.

Can I have psychotherapy or psychological treatment elsewhere at the same time as attending the Complex Needs Service?

You can be a member of an Options group while you are having therapy elsewhere, and attend the low intensity groups, but before you join the medium and high intensity parts of the service (the therapeutic communities) other therapy will need to come to an end.

Do I need my GP or psychiatrist to refer me?

You can refer yourself by calling, writing or emailing to obtain a self referral form; contact details are on this website. We recommend that you discuss your thoughts about this with any professionals you are currently seeing.

 Is the Complex Needs service only for people with personality disorder?

Most of the people we work with suffer from personality disorder. You do not have to suffer from personality disorder to attend one of the programmes. This is a controversial area – please pick up the leaflet entitled ‘What is personality disorder’ for more details, and follow the link above.


Complex Needs: This is a term we use for people with complicated lives, who often have difficulties with relationships, and tend to suffer long term emotional and interpersonal problems.

CNS: Complex Needs Service. This is the website for the CNS is Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Emotional skills groups. These used to be known as Options groups/Getting ready groups. There are five of these, based in Adderbury (nr Banbury), Oxford, High Wycombe, Aylesbury and Witney. Each is linked to a medium or high intensity therapeutic programme (therapeutic community), and members of the Options/getting ready group would normally move on to the intensive therapy part of the service in the same location. Follow the ‘Options groups’ link above for more information.

TC: Therapeutic Community. The TC in Oxford meets three days a week, the one in Aylesbury meets twice a week. In Adderbury (nr Banbury), High Wycombe and Witney, they meet one day a week. Members attend for 18 months. Follow the ‘Therapeutic community’ link above for more information.