The Extraordinary Claims and Behaviours of IAPT’s Backers

who exhibit power without accountability. They include companies such as SilverCloud and limbic and professional bodies such as the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy (BABCP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS).

I reported SilverCloud to the ASA over its claim of ‘up to 70% clinical recovery rates’ for its computerised CBT. Unfortunately they could not act on it as it comes under Irish jurisdiction. The matter has  been passed to the Irish ASA, from whom I have heard nothing. The reach of SilverCloud is extensive, with its’ claim to be “supporting 80% of the NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies(IAPT) services”. It is a major financial backer of IAPT workshops. But there has been no independent verification of SilverCloud’s claimed recovery rates.

IAPT workshops are also now funded by limbic ‘An A. I. assistant for clinical assessment in IAPT – improving access, reducing costs and freeing up staff time’. Recently the British Psychological Society Journal the Psychologist devoted an article to the claims of the CE0 of limbic. I protested, and furnished a critique which the Editor declined. I note that in the current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry that there is a paper by IAPT researchers Delgadillo et al 2022 JAMA Psychiatry. 2022;79(2):101-108. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.3539 published online December 8, 2021 in which they have been unable to substantiate the claims of limbic.

But Delgadillo et al (2022) do claim a 7% increase in the likelihood of recovery if IAPT therapist use the limbic algorithm i.e inputting data on depression, anxiety, history etc to determine whether the particular clients needs are better met by IAPT standard stepped care or by a stratified procedure where clients are allegedly better matched to high or low intensity CBT initially. However they do observe that the apparent difference could be due the therapists involved in stratification devoting more time to clients!

Delgadillo et al (2022) accept without question IAPT’s definition of recovery, a change of score on a self-report measure, the PHQ9, to below caseness. They fail to point out that their metric does not a) involve independent assessors to counter the demand characteristics involved in usage of a self-report measure i.e the focus on this measure in client-therapist interactions b) the IAPT data provides no indication that clients see the claimed changes as clinically meaningful, i.e back to old self or best functioning c) symptoms of depression and anxiety wax and wane, so that any improvement on a self-report measure can be simply a flash in the pan, particularly when people present initially at their worst. It has to be determined that any change is lasting e.g at least 8 weeks. It appears that Delgadillo et al (2022) simply rejoice in the large data set furnished by IAPT, it is a case of ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’.

When the power holders collude in this way, it is difficult make headway. I think limbic should also be reported to the ASA and BABCP and BPS should be asked to justify their commitment to Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs), the deliverers of low intensity CBT – it looks suspiciously like cronyism, however unintentional.

Dr Mike Scott

Post Trauma, Quality Treatment Shouldn’t Be Traumatic – New Book

Personalising Trauma Treatment is about helping trauma victims back to their old selves and focuses on altering the perception of the centrality of the trauma.

In this book, clients are taught to rediscover their sense of self by reframing the trauma. Within this new framework the focus is on the client’s mental time travel from the trauma to today and reimagining their future. The therapeutic targets are the thoughts and images (cognitions) that interfere with day-to-day functioning. It does not assume that arrested information processing lies at the heart of the development of PTSD, with a consequent need for the client to re-live the trauma. For those clients who were abused in childhood, their experiences are viewed through a particular central window, but other ‘windows’ may make for more appropriate engagement with their personal world and a reimagining of their view of themselves. Treatment delivery options from telephone consultation, group work and videoconferencing are discussed. With illustrative examples, the author highlights the pathway to recovery for a wide range of clients with the comorbidity often found in real-world settings.

The book will be essential reading for therapists and other mental health professionals working with trauma survivors.

Michael Scott identifies the paradox, coolly critiques the evidence, and illustrates and emphasises the collaborative and crucial role of the creative, empathic, and restorative therapist in enabling the client’s natural resilience and preferences for today and tomorrow, without pathologizing normality, imposing supposed processing, and unconstrained by complacent diktat. — Greg Wilkinson Formerly: Editor, The British Journal of Psychiatry and Professor of Liaison Psychiatry, The University of Liverpool; Currently, Consultant Psychiatrist, Liverpool University Dental Hospital and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Scott offers a unique and refreshing perspective on working with those affected by trauma, particularly when they don’t neatly fit into a PTSD ‘box’ but have nevertheless come to be defined by their experiences. Taking a critical eye to evidence-based practice, and at turns thought-provoking and light-hearted, he combines up-to-date theory and clinical pearls with a robust critique of the modern realities of service delivery. Full of rich clinical examples and dialogue that brings the reader into his therapy room, he takes you step-by-step through his clinical decision making and interventions.Highly recommended! — Sharif El-Leithy, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Traumatic Stress Service  

In Personalising Trauma Treatment: Reframing and Reimagining Dr Scott delivers an approach to treatment grounded in pragmatism and real-world functioning. After considering the pitfalls of poor assessment he guides the reader through the process of detailed and accurate diagnosis questioning whether treatments work for the supposed reasons they give. This book is a must for all IAPT & CBT therapists, counsellors and clinical psychologists involved in the care of individuals suffering with trauma. — Sundeep Sembi, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist, Psychology Chambers Ltd

https://www.routledge.com/Personalising-Trauma-Treatment-Reframing-and-Reimagining/Scott/p/book/9781032013121 utm_source=individuals&utm_medium=shared_link&utm_campaign=B021841_ca1_1au_7pp_d875

 

The Myth That IAPT Pays for Itself By Getting People Into Work and/or Increasing Productivity

 

IAPT claims the service pays for itself by getting people off unemployment benefit (16.8% of IAPT clients) Davis et al (2020) http://dx.doi.org/10.1136  and/or long term sick or disabled benefit (6.9% of IAPT clients).   It is therefore a minority of IAPT clients that may justify the belief that the service pays for itself. But further elaboration of this ‘minority’ shows that the proportion of clients who could make an economic difference is smaller still. Further when the psychological mechanism by which a change of occupational status may operate is considered it is improbable that the service pays for itself.  

 IAPT could in principle get 20-25% of clients off benefits. Assuming the target clientele this year is 20%, i.e 0.3 million people, how would the service pay for itself.  Well 40% of IAPT clients do not attend their 1st treatment appointment, so only 0.18 million will be exposed to an IAPT treatment therapist. Of these 42% attend just one treatment appointment, thus 0.1044 million have exposure  to IAPTs treatments and are in the categories of unemployed or long term sick and potentially might have their employment status changed by the Service i.e 104,440. Those undergoing IAPT treatment ( defined by the Service as attending 2 or more treatment sessions) have an average of 8 treatment sessions in 2018-2019     Saunders et al (2020) https://doi.org/10.1017/S1754470X20000173 but the unemployed and those on long term sickness benefit are less likely to attend a treatment session Davis et al (2020)http://dx.doi.org/10.1136, as are those who have been referred previously. Thus one might expect this 104,440 to attend a mean of 6 sessions and treatment typically spans 12 weeks according to Saunders et al (2020) https://doi.org/10.1017/S1754470X20000173 . By what mechanism could the typical 6 sessions change employment status over the 12 week span? 

 

  1. There will be a sub-population of the ‘unemployed’ whose unemployment is  related to a work related negative life event, e.g now being physically unable to do the manual work they were employed to do or maltreatment at work. It is difficult to see how 6 sessions of psychological therapy  delivered over 12 weeks would change the diagnostic status of this sub population. There is absence of evidence that such a dosage of psychological therapy can change the employment status of this sub-population. If the sub-population of clients for whom work has been an iatrogenic factor in their debility, are excluded from the analysis, then the population that IAPT’s ministrations could conceivably address is much less than 100,000.
  2.  To return a person to occupational functioning would mean addressing three key areas a) persistence – the ability to persist with a task b) pace – the ability to complete a task in a timely manner and c) adaptation – the ability to handle the inevitable hassles of the workplace. There is no evidence that IAPT specifically targets these difficulties or has provided training in tackling them nor has it been demonstrated 6 sessions of psychological therapy can resolve such difficulties in 12 weeks and even less whether such treatment is enduring. 

It can be objected that IAPT pays for itself by increasing the productivity of those already employed, rather than by changing occupational status. But there is no evidence that it does so anymore than the pre-IAPT counselling services.

Dr Mike Scott

 

The Curious Economics of IAPT To Which the National Audit Office Has Resolutely Turned a Blind Eye

 

No matter that the likely cost of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service last year was £1.2 billion! There are significant pay differentials in IAPT, starting with Band 5 Low Intensity Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs)earning £25,655 – £31,534 a year, qualified high intensity(HI) therapists will likely earn £38,890 (progressing annually to £44,503) but there is no evidence of a difference in effectiveness of low and high intensity therapists. There is a claim that the HI therapists work with the more complex cases but the evidence for this is suspect, resting on claims of higher PHQ9 scores amongst the latter’s clients. But in the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) submission (and in my own submission) to NICE, in relation to the proposed guidance for depression, we argued that it was inappropriate to choose a single score on this measure to differentiate levels of severity. If IAPT members were in a Union the latter would cry foul at the pay differentials. But would the NAO continue its selective deafness?

 

The most common scenario is for an IAPT clients to receive the minimalist, low intensity treatment for which there is an absence of evidence of real-world effectiveness. 48% of treatments are low intensity treatments based on CBT principles and 20% are high intensity treatments, a small minority are stepped up from low to high intensity [Clark (2018)]. But the evidence base for the low intensity interventions derived from randomised controlled trials is weak compared to that for the high intensity interventions. But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Care Excellence (NICE) rubber stamps both, with IAPT staff on NICE panels for computerised CBT. There is not only a problem with the science behind IAPT’s approach, but also no evidence that what it delivers on the ground represents fidelity to NICE approved treatment protocols.

In summary there is no evidence that IAPT delivers what it says on the tin, evidence based treatment for depression and the anxiety disorders. IAPT has failed to monitor treatment integrity, why then should such infidelity be so richly rewarded?

Dr Mike Scott