CBT for Addictions – As Likely As Winning At Roulette

There has been an outbreak of smashing fruit machines in Liverpool: this week a man was given a 12 month suspended sentence for wrecking a well known Bookmakers machines, he protested that they were not helping him overcome his addiction! This followed hot on the heels of the brilliant fictional TV series ‘Broken’ (filmed in Liverpool) which showed identical behaviour in the wake of the suicide of a gambling addict.

A person I saw recently Mr X ,with a lifelong gambling addiction told me that the longest period he had been without gambling was when he bet a fellow gambler who would last longest, he lasted 2 weeks. Sadly his experience of IAPT was woeful he was introduced to the discredited stop technique to distract himself when he had the urge to gamble.  He said that he had a few sessions with the therapist but the therapist left and he was given a new therapist.  Mr X said that a questionnaire was then administered and because he got below certain thresholds it was deemed that he did not need counselling and the therapy was terminated.  He said that he was alarmed at this because he felt suicidal and he wrote a letter of complaint and was then offered further sessions but declined them because he had lost trust in the enterprise.

Addiction services have been managed by local authorities since 2012 , but with typical cuts of 30% many services struggle. People can fall between services as a tender is often times switched after 3 years.

CBT for Severe Mental Illness – Does It Reach the Parts That Matter?

Is IAPT overeaching itself by straying into the Severe Mental Illness arena? ‘Ian’ had a life long history of psychosis, he had a great deal of support/treatment over the years from Richard Bentall, author of the brilliant book ‘Madness Explained’, for which the family were most appreciative.  Unfortunately Ian had his benefit withdrawn on the grounds that he was ‘fit for work’ and I was asked to help. Within  two minutes of my seeing  Ian it was abundantly obvious to anyone that he could not work, he was so agitated,  his visits to coffee shops often curtailed by his paranoia.  In the event I produced a report, which alongside a letter from Richard resulted in his benefit being reinstated, his parents were delighted. I did offer Ian the opportunity to look at better ways of handling his paranoia etc but he declined.  I felt desperately sorry for him and reflected that even if he had taken up my offer I doubt that I would have made a real world difference, at best he would have been thankful for my efforts. I wonder whether CBT for psychosis has been oversold.

In using the term ‘severe mental  illness’ I toyed between this term and psychosis, I was trying to use a common language with the reader and in writing my report to the DWP I said that Ian met the DSM diagnostic criteria for schiziophrenia. Labels can be problematic and indeed might not have a biological basis but they give a direction for treatment and influence eligibility for benefits. Richard Bentall et al wrote an Expert review ‘Drop the language of disorder’ in Evidence Based Mental Health, February 2013 and recommended a ‘problem definition, formulation’ approach rather than a ‘diagnosis treatment’ approach, but in my view it is not a matter of ‘either or’ but a matter of both.  Notwithstanding our differences neither of us were able to make a real world difference in what I would see for want of a better term is Ian’s schizophrenia.

IAPT has a demonstration site for Severe Mental Illness for people with psychosis, bipolar disorder and personality disorder, before disseminating such a service there needs to be independent verification using clinician-rated measures (PSYRATS for hallucinations and delusions, SCID for personality disorders) that such a such service would add anything over and above support in the community, otherwise it is just extending an empire.

Dr Mike Scott

‘Too Complex for IAPT’ – Dumping on Secondary Care?

I work in secondary care as a band 7 CBT therapist within a CMHT. Often I will have referrals sent directly from IAPT who describe the patient as being too ‘complex’. Indeed this seems to have become an actual care pathway (not that we have too many of those). As far as i can tell at this stage  the patient may have not had a face to face assessment, rather has been deemed too complex simply because of the stated diagnosis e.g if they have a so  called personality disorder. I have also been told that if someone scores a above a certain score on the HADS scale (I don’t understand why this particular measure is being used as the ‘cut off’)  they too are apparently ‘too complex’. I am also told that  the outcome measures used by IAPT apparently mean that the ‘too complex clients’ would impact on these performance scales which in turn  could mean further funding for the service is jeopardized.

This concerns me on two fronts. Firstly in principle… this seems to completely  go against the ethos  of  the IAPT envisioned by Layard & Clark (although how workable or realistic this ever actually was in another thread) and another example of how it  seems management  are ‘cooking the books’ . Secondly on a more  personal level  I am employed in same Trust as a band 7 cbt therapist , i have no support from care coordinators and supposedly have the same amount of sessions to offer patients so how can possibly i offer anything different to IAPT? I suspect management know I can’t , but i ( and my colleague) serve as  i convenient sponge to soak up all the pts that may threaten the outcome measures…


I wonder has anyone else working in secondary care had  similar experiences  or is this an isolated thing ?

Wasting The Taxpayers Money – Fire and Fury Over CBT

‘The results are, at best, unreliable, and at worst manipulated to produce a positive-looking outcome’ so write the editors of the current issue of the Journal of Health Psychology, (http://journals.sagepub.com/toc/hpqa/current). They are writing in relation to a study of the efficacy of CBT for chronic fatigue syndrome ( CFS – the PACE trial). The essence of the editors’ criticism is that when objective measures of outcome were used the effectiveness of CBT disappeared, but the authors of the PACE trial relied instead on subjective self-report measures to ‘promote’ the cognitive behaviour therapy and graded exercise therapy protocols that they themselves had developed. The Times of August 1st 2017 reported a ‘trade’ of ‘insults’ between both sides.

                       PACE Trial £5 million

                                                                                           IAPT £400 million +

But the same criticism that the editors make of the evaluation of CBT for CFS can be applied to how CBT for ‘depression and anxiety’ (the alleged focus of IAPT) is evaluated in routine care in the UK Government’s IAPT Service. Evaluation is entirely based on subjective measures (the PHQ-9 and GAD-7), there is no objective measure (a standardised reliable diagnostic interview), assessment has been entirely by the service providers with no independent assessment. The cost of the PACE trial was just £5 million, a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of IAPT which saw the Coalition Government invest up to     £400 million over the four years to 2014–2015. [Department of Health (2012). IAPT Three-year Report—The First Million Patients. London: DH] .

Dr Mike Scott


Mental Health Services Expansion Before Completion of Investigation!

On July 31st 2017, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt announced funding for an extra 2,900  new therapists in Adult Mental Health talking therapy services. A week earlier the National Audit Office invited submissions for its’ investigation into IAPT, with a closing date of this Autumn. It is clearly the time of the year for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party:


be careful that you don’t mutter under your breath at such gatherings that ‘evidence should precede action’, if heard it could be ‘off with your head’.

But beware, the historian High Trevor Roper wrote in the Last Days of Hitler ‘mythopoeia is a far more common characteristic of the human race than veracity’. The wholesale endorsement of IAPT by BABCP and to a lesser extent by BPS reflects mythopoeia:


IAPT with its low intensity modality has attempted to make therapy ‘simpler’ than simple, resulting in ineffective treatment.  When it comes to the high intensity modality it has made matters ‘simpler’ than simple, by abandoning reliable diagnosis/high specification of problem/s as a Sat Nav for treatment again often resulting in ineffective treatment.


Dr Mike Scott


National Audit Office IAPT Investigation, Whistleblowers

Below is the National Audit Office’s request for evidence re: IAPT, I note they have a whistleblower’s policy. It may be possible to ask for anonymity. I would hope that BABCP and BPS would make a submission to the National Audit Office, but to my knowledge this is not on the agenda of either, why not?

Investigation: Improving Access to

Psychological Therapies performance data

The ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) programme increases access to

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence approved treatment for depression and

anxiety disorders. In October 2014, the Department of Health and NHS England

jointly published Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020. This set new

standards for the time people should wait for mental health treatment and the care they should

be able to access. In the case of IAPT services, the standards are that 75% of people referred

should be treated within six weeks, and 95% within 18 weeks of referral, and that 50% of

those who complete treatment will recover. NHS Digital publishes monthly statistics

that report performance against these standards. This investigation will establish the facts

around how the national statistics are prepared.

If you would like to provide evidence for our study please email the study team on

enquiries@nao.gsi.gov.uk, putting the study title in the subject line. The team will consider the

evidence you provide; however, please note that due to the volume of information we receive we

may not respond to you directly. If you need to raise a concern please use our contact form.