IAPT Behind Closed Doors – The Need for Listening and Flexibility

At Bury I had occasion to treat an older gentleman who lived alone and had no family locally.  He also had received step 3 CBT work on at least 2 occasions previously and he had been re  – referred to me at step 2.  This gentleman had a stammer and a thick Scottish accent and did not speak often, as he was anxious and low in mood since he was embarrassed that people did not understand him.  My brief was to “get him out and mixing with other people”.  I discovered that he did not go out very often and had been interested in computers in the past, going on a Government scheme to learn more, until the funding was stopped.  He showed me his phone, which was his “lifeline” and stated that he had got it a few years ago, but that it was quite expensive to run.  He told me about his female companion, who was unfortunately ill and who used to accompany him to the Library when she had been well, as he did not cope well in public.  I began thinking about his phone and his love of computers

 

Over the first 3 sessions, I understood that he was not a particularly social person, could not afford a computer of his own, but was able to consider that he may get a better phone and a better deal than the one he had.  I did not see this gentleman for 2 weeks, as he sent word that he had a cold, but by the 4th session, he had been on his own to a local branch of Carphone Warehouse and had negotiated a deal on a new phone which had a full screen internet access and which was affordable.  He recovered to the extent that not only was he able to go out alone to places now, he was going to coffee shops and public places accessing the free internet there to talk to his many friends over the internet and was no longer a person who avoided people, because he could now make himself understood.  I remember his words to me at session 5 when I discharged him, telling me, “the world is mine!” and about how his female friend was also recovering with his help.  He explained that she had always had to help him to go shopping and to explain things for him, but that now he had more confidence, he was doing things for her for a change.  The key for him was being understood and improving his life through his talents and his love of computers and gadgetry.  Everything else followed on from this.

One of my better experiences at Bury was with a lady who was referred onto my caseload because she had long – standing issues with physical injury sustained at work and who was in the process of claiming compensation from her employer for her injury.  She was newly married and had become extremely anxious and suffered with co-morbid depression.  She had been seen and treated with CBT at step 3 twice before and was also referred to Mindfulness Relaxation.  She was referred to me at step 2 because she had “failed to be able to use mindfulness to relax and was still anxious and suffering from depression”.  I had 6 sessions with this lady and she missed one because of needing to go to court to represent herself for her case, but this was tagged on the end for review.  I adapted an approach for this lady’s needs which did not include mindfulness and helped her to see her new situation not so much in terms of what she could no longer do, but with an emphasis on new opportunities.

This demonstrated that current IAPT approaches are markedly inflexible and there is little or no notion of adaptation to suit individual needs and also, too much emphasis on “getting the list down”.

 

Anonymity protected Dr Mike Scott

Mis-selling of the Cognitive Therapy Rating Scale

If your performance has been evaluated using the cognitive therapy rating scale (or the revised version) you may have a claim for ‘damages’. Curiously the cognitive therapy rating scale has a shaky foundation:

  1. The CTRS has only been evaluated in a sample of depressed clients undergoing cognitive therapy [Shaw et al (1999)] , therapists scores on this did not  predict outcome on self-report measures the Beck Depression Inventory or the SCL-90 (a more general measure of psychological  distress) however it did predict outcome on the clinician administered Hamilton Depression Scale predicting just 19% of the variance in outcome, but it was the structure parts of the scale (setting of an agenda, pacing, homework) that accounted for this 19% not items measuring socratic dialogue etc. The authors concluded: ‘The results are, however, not as strong or consistent as expected’
  2. There is no evidence that the CTRS is applicable to disorders other than depression. Some aspects of the CTRS such as socratic dialogue may be particularly inappropriate with some clients e.g OCD and PTSD sufferers.
  3. The CTRS does not make it clear that the clinician cannot have set an appropriate agenda without reliably determining what the person is suffering from.
  4. In practice raters appear to pay more attention to the socratic dialogue item as opposed to interpersonal effectivenes (e.g non-verbal behaviour). There is a poor intra class correlation of the order 0.1, ratings of least competent therapists are more in agreement with those of supervisors than the more competent therapists! [McManus et al (2012)]
  5. The Hamilton Scale used in the Shaw et al (1999) study was developed before the development of DSM criteria and it is questionable about whether any correlation would be found between DSM diagnostic status and score on the CTRS for depression or indeed any disorder.

 

Dr Mike Scott

‘We’ll Spin the IAPT Wheel To See What You Need’

Maybe the IAPT wheel will stop at counselling, or perhaps low intensity CBT or maybe  high intensity CBT! I have just  had a client who was within 6 weeks of a road traffic accident given an IAPT telephone assessment and deemed in need of low intensity CBT, but didn’t attend the scheduled treatment appointment and therefore discharged. 14 weeks post rta  he underwent a further telephone assessment and was now deemed in need of high intensity CBT, unsurprisingly he DNA’d the first treatment appointment.      The GP was provided with no explanation of the rationale followed by IAPT nor was he furnished with any psychometric test data. Accountability?

It is difficult to see the logic of IAPT’s position, other than to be seen to offer a speedy service,  it could be argued that some distress post rta is normal and in the interests of ‘saving normal’ (and resources) waiting and seeing a little longer would have been helpful . Perhaps a case for counselling could be made but on what basis?

 

Dr Mike Scott

IAPT Behind Closed Doors – Falsifying Quality Control Data

My experience is that at least one person was found to have massaged the figures to reflect a greater recovery rate and consequent discharge.  This was only discovered following a particularly high level of re-referrals for ex-patients and subsequent complaints.

With regard to the PHQ 9 and GAD 7 scoring system, I feel that this could be open to abuse.  This may be because workers are under great pressure to perform and elicit results.  I believe this to have taken place as a consequence of almost overwhelming pressure to discharge referrals.  With more discharges came more referrals and there was never any acknowledgement of best practice or learning lessons appropriately.  I understood also that PHQ 9 and GAD 7 only had pertinence for those suffering from mild to moderate mental health conditions.  I had to use other tests for those persons who had suffered past trauma and more severe mental illness which I myself as a practitioner “filtered out” as a consequence of them being incorrectly referred to step 2 services.

Anonymity protected – Dr Mike Scott

Post Trauma Mapping – circumventing difficulties with trauma focussed cbt

From an evolutionary perspective the problem with PTSD is not so much the traumatic memory but that the latter furnishes a maladaptive map, as if the sufferer is operating in a ‘war zone’.  This suggests a different treatment focus to the often resisted trauma focussed CBT.  The goal of treatment is to construct an adaptive map, this involves ‘scouting’ to ascertain where if anywhere the ‘real and present dangers’ are.  PTSD sufferers are often operating like Tony Blair on the ‘dodgy dossier’, if the weapons of mass destruction are not found in one place there is a rush to somewhere else thinking ‘they must be here’.

For clients resistant to trauma focussed CBT (TFCBT), post trauma mapping readily enhances the therapeutic alliance. Alliance problems are a bigger problem in delivering trauma focussed cbt in routine practice than have ever been acknowledged in randomised controlled trials, resulting in therapists feeling deskilled. Steve Stradling and I found that in routine practice only just over half of clients comply, even loosely defined, with a trauma focussed CBT [ Journal of Traumatic Stress (1997)].  There is a gap between what the scientist practitioners in the randomised controlled trials find and what the routine clinician/ ‘engineer’ finds in routine practice. Such mapping can be insufficient to resolve the PTSD but in passing the person becomes so acquainted with talking about the trauma that shifting from the ‘shallow end’ to exercising in the ‘deep end’, trauma focussed CBT is seemless.

From an evolutionary perspective the only function of memory is to to help us better anticipate future events, there is no value in memory per se. It may transpire that trauma focussed CBT is not actually essential for recovery from PTSD, certainly we do know that TFCBT is not necessary and is often experienced as ‘toxic’ for those traumatised but not suffering from PTSD e.g simple phobia, depression. Making it very important to carefully delineate the psychological sequelae of trauma.

Dr Mike Scott

Telephone First Consultations Fail

IAPT is synonymous with telephone first consultations, but the first independent study of this intended cost saving device, with GP’s, has shown it fails to deliver. An editorial in this week’s British Medical Journal on the Newbould et al study* (2017) states:

‘ Telephone first systems alone will not solve the perennial problem of ensuring timely, safe, and equitable access….It is also yet another reminder of the importance of independent evaluation of initiatives before investment in widespread implementation’

Instead of piloting and having an independent evaluation, IAPT has ploughed on regardless. Accountability is a major issue for IAPT, it positions itself between primary  and secondary care but is accountable to neither. It claims comprehensive data collection on almost all its clients. Yet in the authors examination of 90 cases (In preparation) that went through IAPT, for clients having two or more treatment sessions, before and end of treatment psychometric test data was given to GPs in less than half of cases. One quarter of cases did not clear the first hurdle of either ringing IAPT for a telephone assessment or IAPT being unable to contact the person. Whilst 13.3% ‘attended’ only the initial assessment. Thus IAPT is failing to engage just less than 4 out of 10 clients.

 

In GP practices with telephone first consultation the proportion of patients who would recommend their practice to friends fell. There was also a reported increase in emergency admissions associated with telephone first systems.

Clinical Commissioning Groups should insist on IAPT reforming itself, by dropping telephone first consultations.

* Newbould et al (2017 Evaluation of telephone first approach to demand management in English general practice: observational study. BMJ: 358:j4187

Dr Mike Scott

IAPT Behind Closed Doors – ‘Group CBT’

I have had some interesting experiences with regard to group work.  Groups were divided into either Anxiety or Depression groups and it was often a difficult task to understand or to divide those suffering predominantly from anxiety and those suffering mostly from depression.  Added to this, groups were designed to deliver the most information to as many people as possible and were not tailored to individual need.  It was a “scattergun” approach, designed to keep the commissioners happy in terms of figures.  I think the worst example of this, was when a “Welcome Group” was planned which gave “due consideration in terms of numbers of people who could drop out” and asked 15 people to attend.  The room’s capacity in terms of seating was only 12, but in fact, 45 people attended and this would have been more if inclement weather had not prevented others from attending.  This was put down to a mistake with the figures and in the following week, only 3 attended the course.

Courses routinely had the obligatory people who presented with alcohol or drug problems and it was a regular occurrence that either one or the other would disrupt a group.  I once had a complaint made against me by a member of a group who felt that I had not been supportive to her situation and had been tearful and had had to go to the Ladies’ to recover.  I asked my colleague to accompany her.  I was rounded upon by the drunk in the room, who jeered and berated me for “making her cry” and that I should be ashamed of myself.  I told this inebriated person that he may not attend the next session and for this I was abused verbally.  I felt quite threatened, but was asked to explain my actions at a later date, when the complaint came in.  The situation was seen to be “one of those things” but my efforts to point out that anyone with either drug or alcohol problems should not have any place in a depression group, were largely ignored.  I had argued that anyone who had not made some kind of recovery from either drug or alcohol issues should not be permitted to attend a step 2 group, because they would not benefit and could possibly disrupt a group.

Anonymity protected – Dr Mike Scott

Developing Groupwork – An Exercise in Storytelling

Shifting the therapeutic focus from ‘classes’ to a shared narrative has greatly resonated with attendees at my ‘Delivering Group CBT’ workshops this year. My message has been if you are running a group make sure participants have the same story.

 

Social groups are formed by people having the same story e.g Labour Party supporters or Church groups. Therapeutic groups with diverging narratives are likely to run into difficulties.  Consider an anxiety group which includes a person with OCD, another group member with say generalised anxiety disorder , might well consider the OCD person as ‘weird’, become fearful that they will ‘catch’ the same disorder and drop out of treatment.  The therapists leading the group might well find that they are stretched too far in having to cater sufficiently for the person with OCD, yet simultanously keep other group members involved throughout.

Diagnosis is simply a way of ensuring people share the same story i.e the cognitive model of the particular disorder. There are free ‘storybooks’ for depression, the anxiety disorders and PTSD in the ‘Resources’ section of this site, which can form the content of group sessions.

Thus all members of a panic disorder group would be taught not to be ‘bullied’ by the panic attacks, but to gradually ‘dare’ go to places that they have historically avoided both within and outside the group session. The story-telling rationale ‘chunky CBT’ lends itself more to the use of  metaphor e.g ‘being bullied’, rather than talking class room style about say ‘the fight and flight response’.

Dr Mike Scott