IAPT is camouflaging what most of its clients receive and has eskewed a focus on clinically relevant outcomes. But one of the domains that the CQC assesses services against is whether they are Outcomes-focused. The CQC needs to conduct an inquiry into IAPT.
Guided Self-Help (GSH) has been the diet of 71% of IAPT’s clients, but therapists have now been advised not to mention GSH, because it may be off-putting! But rather to refer instead to ‘low intensity telephone CBT’ . Notwithstanding that NICE has justified its’ support for low intensity CBT on the basis of studies that were termed ‘GSH’. There is a transparency about offering GSH, clients have a right to know what they are letting themselves in for. Informed consent cannot be meaningfully given to a term like ‘low intensity telephone CBT’.
The matter of informed consent is compounded further by IAPT by their failure to inform clients of what clinically relevant outcome he/she can expect. In particular what minimally important difference the client can expect and clearly see as meaningful. Changes on a psychometric test do not qualify as a clinically relevant outcome by contrast a client can clearly understand say an expectation to be back to their usual self.
IAPT’s ‘low intensity telephone CBT’ itself rests on a fault line, studies that found statistical significance between groups e.g computer assisted CBT vs waiting list, but without a) any discussion of the clinical relevance of the findings and b) blind independent assessment of outcome. Dissemination of the low intensity interventions has been promoted on the back of statistical significance rather than clinical relevance. This makes it imperative that the CQC becomes outcomes focused in a transparent way and is not sucked in by IAPT’s self serving surrogates.
there are no limits to IAPT’s ambitions, making failure inevitable. IAPT’s target in practice is, “whatever the client complains of” and treatment is operationalised as “whatever its’ therapists do”, Both focii are so loose that it cannot fulfill it’s promise, like a totalitarian revolution that runs out of steam.
The IAPT Manual published a year ago leaves both targets and treatment ‘fuzzy’, whilst proclaiming a commitment to NICE Guidelines. A target of ‘client complaints’ makes no distinction between ‘ disorder’ and everyday unhappiness/stresses. Yet the treatments advocated by NICE are quite specific to disorders.
At most IAPT staff ask about some symptoms of a disorder, but without coverage of all the symptoms of a disorder. But they are not taught to ask whether a symptom is present at a clinically significant level, i.e whether it is making a real world difference to a client’s life. Only clinically significant symptoms count in DSM. As a result IAPT client’s are typically treated for disorders they don ‘t have, without any fidelity check on compliance with a protocol.
There is tremendous vested interest, financially, emotionally and intellectually in IAPT continuing as it is, marking its’ own homework with applause from BABCP and the BPS.
day workshop September 20th, Liverpool. Details from BABCP website are below:
GROUP CBT SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP
Group CBT – Forward Leap or Backward Somersault?
Led by Dr Mike Scott Friday 20 September 2019 Times: 9.30am to 3.30pm (Registration from 9.00am) Venue: 54 St James Street, Liverpool, L1 0AB
About the workshop: Groups are a way of addressing the commonalities amongst peoples’ difficulties/disorders [Scott (2011)]. They also offer the enticing prospect of a wider dissemination of services. This workshop addresses the question of when is group CBT effective and when is it a pawn in a numbers game? Jo Clifford will present the NICE recommendations on group CBT. Attendees will take part in a simulated stress management group (SMG), to experience the trials and tribulations of being a leader, co-leader and group member. A framework for understanding and managing interactions will be described. The criteria for judging a group as effective will be considered and participants will be asked to deliver a verdict on an SMG group. This then serves as a methodological template for evaluating other group interventions. The therapeutic relationship is a key element of both individual and group CBT but takes a slightly different form in the latter [Whitfield and Scott (2019)]. These differences will be explicated in the workshop. Participants are invited to reflect on their own experiences of groupwork: in this connection Nicola Walker will give a presentation on the side effects of group therapy. Finally, participants will be encouraged to reflect on the scope for implementing group CBT where they are.
Scott, M.J (2011) Simply Effective Group Cognitive Behaviour Therapy London: Routledge Whitfield, G and Scott, M (2019) CBT Delivered in Groups in ‘The Therapeutic Relationship in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Edited by S Moorey and A Lavender London: Sage publications.
Registration and General Information BABCP Member fee: £50 Non-Member fee: £70 BABCP Member Student: £40 Non-Member Student: £60 Lunch and refreshments will be provided. A CPD certificate for 6 hours will be issued – 50/50 skills and theory Closing date for registrations is Friday 13 September 2019 For any event or booking queries please contact BABCP head office on 0330 320 0851 or email email@example.com For venue enquiries please see website – http://www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk/54stjamesstreet
Timetable 9.00am Registration 9.30am Mike Scott Psychoeducation strengths and limits 9.50am Jo Clifford NICE Recommendations for Group CBT 10.10am Mike Scott Group CBT in practice 10.30am Coffee 10.50am Mike Scott Simulated Group Session of Stress Management. Reflections of participants, leader and co-leader 11.30am Mike Scott Framework for evaluating group skills and organisational context. But do skills relate to outcome? 12.30pm Lunch 1.15pm Nicola Walker Side effects of Group Therapy 1.45pm Nicola Walker Participants’ experiences and views on best practice for group CBT Discussion 2.30pm Coffee 2.50pm Putting it together where I am 3.30pm Close
applying the acid tests of the Cochrane Collaboration Tool and the GRADE Handbook for the quality of randomised controlled trials, studies of low intensity CBT fail to clear the methodological bar. Whilst only high intensity studies for depression and the anxiety disorders make a successful jump. This calls into question IAPT’s penchant for disseminating CBT for everything, with an imprimatur from BABCP, paying travel expenses of upto £100 for special interest group members to attend a pre-conference workshop Revolution in Mental Health Service Delivery: The Evolution of Low Intensity CBT on Tuesday 3rd September.
One of the seven domains highlighted by the Cochrane Collaboration tool for assessing bias is the blinding of outcome assessment. I have been unable to locate one outcome study of low intensity CBT that fulfills this criteria whilst there are a significant minority of studies of high intensity interventions for depression and the anxiety disorders that do.
The GRADE handbook for assessing the quality of trials comments in section 3.4 ‘not infrequently, outcomes most important to patients remain unexplored’, with regards to psychological interventions clients are rarely asked by someone independent of the study whether and if for how long they are back to their usual selves since treatment. Instead most commonly reliance is placed on a surrogate measure a client completed questionnaire, as opposed to an independent clinicians assessment using a standardised diagnostic interview to determine whether there has been a loss diagnostic status.
These concerns are crystallised in a study of CBT for Health Anxiety conducted by Cooper et al (2017), Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 2017, 45, 110–123 doi:10.1017/S1352465816000527
whilst 10 of the 13 studies in a meta analysis used the DSM or ICD-10 to determine whether people should be admitted to the meta analysis, in no study was meeting these criteria used as an outcome measure. To be no longer suffering from the identified health anxiety at end of treatment/follow up would have been a client important outcome. Instead the self-report Health Anxiety Questionnaire was used as surrogate. Cooper et al (2017) attempted to rate studies using the Cochrane Collaboration tool using a summary score for the seven domains, but this bore no relation to outcome and as the authors admitted was a questionable procedure. Despite this CBT was claimed to be an effective treatment for health anxiety.
I am afraid I can’t join in the jamboree for IAPT services that takes place at the BABCP annual conference. I doubt that the ‘House of Cards’ will be discussed and it would likely be seen as banned literature on IAPT training courses.
‘don’t listen to the story treat the symptom’ that is the advise to be given to IAPT’s PWP’s attending a 3 hour workshop on November 28th 2019 on groupwork. It reflects similar advise given to IAPT clients attending a 6 week course on ‘Understanding PTSD’ in which clients are instructed not to talk about their trauma rather to reflect on what they have found helpful so far. This gagging of IAPT clients is consistant with the Organisation’s 30 minute telephone assessment. But it is inconsistant with the need to help client’s overcome cognitive avoidance e.g in PTSD avoiding talking about their trauma.
In Simply Effective Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Routledge (2009)
I suggested that clients need treatment simultanously for all the disorders from which they are suffering. This is to look at the totality of the clients story, not to elevate one part of it (e.g the disorder that is most impairing) and just treat that. Interestingly Barlow et al 2017 see link below compared focussing just on the main disorder from which a person was suffering (from amongst panic disorder, GAD, social anxiety disorder and GAD, even though most people had more than one disorder) with a protocol that could be adapted for any of these disorders ( termed a Unified Protocol) and retention of clients was better with the latter. This suggests that addressing the whole story is best as well as being more respectful.
Care has to be taken however with Barlow’s transdiagnostic approach, in that the term denotes just those suffering from an anxiety disorder excluding PTSD. Over half of clients had a degree. All treatments were developed by Barlow and his colleagues, there has been no independent replication. Treatment was individual, no evidence that it works in groups. The treating clinicians were highly qualified/trained and did both treatments, as the UP was the new kid in the block and their ‘kid brother’ that may explain the slightly better results with UP.
Barlow et al (2017) https://www.dropbox.com/s/22qz932flxroas3/The%20Unified%20Protocol%20for%20Transdiagnostic%20Treatment%20of%20Emotional%20Disorders%20Compared%20With%20Diagnosis-Specific%20Protocols%20for%20Anxiety%20Disorders.html?dl=0
IAPT couldn’t find enough cases of generalised anxiety disorder that a randomised controlled trial comparing CBT with the antidepressant sertraline collapsed, Buszewicz et al (2017) see link below. The metric IAPT uses, problem description is clearly useless as GAD cases are ubiquitous, effecting 4.7% of the population, more common than depression,
Similarly adjustment disorders are ubiquitous but IAPT doesn’t use such a label and engages in treating them then discovers its mistake, what a waste of resources. Dana was distressed by the criminal behaviour of her ex and her children’s exposure to him, she had 4 treatment sessions which she described as helpful, but the service advised that treatment should be suspended and the outcome was ‘mixed’.
Yvonne had a long history of anxiety but no problems in the months before she tripped, injured herself and this initially precluded her use of her main coping mechanism of exercise. She was given treatment for ‘anxiety’ in IAPT, which she described as helpful, but she only had fear of falling a specific phobia this was not addressed at all in treatment. Yvonne had not been asked what would constitute her being back to her usual self i.e what would be a clinically relevant difference post treatment, instead IAPT goes blindly on with its own idiosyncratic metric and claims success on the basis of the changes in scores below:
For speed IAPT weds itself to problem specification, but it doesn’t take clients to their destination of a clinically relevant outcome.
Dr Mike Scott
Buszewicz et al 2017 https://www.dropbox.com/s/1wxuws089tj74er/IAPT%20none%20recognition%20of%20GAD%20lead%20to%20collapse%20of%20trial%202017.pdf?dl=0
trouble is nobody asks them! When was the last time you remember a client being asked ‘are you back to your usual self with the treatment you have had’? Organisations, such as IAPT have their own metric, a decrease on a psychometric test and in secondary care psychiatrists will opine ‘seems a bit brighter to day, increase…’. These ‘metrics’ ensure the survival of the Organisation, but have no demonstrated relationship to loss of diagnostic status as assessed by a clinician independent of the service provider.
In a study by Stegenga et al (2012) see link below depressed patients were followed up over 3 years whether there depression took a chronic (17%), fluctuating (40%) or remitting course (43%) course they all showed decreases in PHQ9 scores throughout the study and without any psychological intervention. The only exception was a worsening of PHQ9 score at 6 months for the chronic subgroup. Similarly a 12 year study of anxious patients Bruce et al (2005) showed they were only suffering from their anxiety disorder 80% of the time. Thus finding a decreased psychometric test score per se does not mean anything.
Bruce et al (2005) linkhttps://www.dropbox.com/s/9powmto8miw60a2/Natural%20recovery%20in%20Social%20Phobia%20Panic%20Disporder%20and%20Generalised%20Anxiety%20Disorder.pdf?dl=0
Stegenga et al (2012) linkhttps://www.dropbox.com/s/k0x2fm0ds01no0k/natural%20course%20of%20depression%20stegenga%202012.pdf?dl=0
Organisations and Clinical Commissioning Groups much prefer to talk about operational matters, numbers and waiting lists and show no interest or expertise in reliably assessing clinically relevant outcomes. But it is not just these bodies, the leading journals have for the past decade predominantly published papers on the efficacy of psychological interventions with no insistence that there should have been blind independent assessment. Instead self-report measures have ruled with little awareness that their completion is subject to demand effects and the measures often bear no obvious relationship to the construct under examination.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that clients are largely fodder for the Organisations. A problem that will not be resolved by increased funding for mental health services albeit that this is clearly needed or by atypical clients as tokens on mental health bodies. The fundamental problem is a lack of respect/reverence for clients.
poor psychological therapy services are as much about populist mental health myths, as underfunding. Drill down beyond IAPT and NICE and you enter a sub atomic world very different to that of the orchestrators.
In the microscopic world people are concerned with:
‘will I get back to my old self with this therapy?’
‘what proportion of people like me, get over this with therapy?’
‘are the effects of therapy temporary or permanent?’
‘are you interested in and committed to me, or am I just a number?’
Moving up to the macroscopic world, real world outcomes are replaced by surrogates ‘a change on a questionnaire’ but without any certainty the questionnaire is measuring anything pertinent to what the person is suffering from! There is no independent assessment of outcome of routine practice.
Myth One: IAPT and NICE are at one
IAPT insists that it is NICE compliant, i.e its treatment protocols match the identified condition. But IAPT clinicians do not diagnose, instead they make a judgement using ICD 10 diagnostic codes, this weak surrogate ignores that NICE Guidance assumes a reliable diagnosis and advocates the DSM criteria not ICD10!
Myth Two: IAPT is credible because of its’ advocacy of NICE Guidelines
The NICE guidelines have called for a decade, for an evaluation of low intensity CBT vs counselling vs treatment as usual, which would include observer rating. Such is its’ ongoing uncertainty as to the value of low intensity CBT.
Myth Three: The value of low intensity CBT has been demonstrated
Not if one insists on methodologically strong studies involving independent outcome assessors.
Myth Four: CBT is the answer
NICE points out that even where there is the strongest evidence in favour of the use of CBT in depression the effects are ‘modest’. It also notes that there are comparitively few studies of Behavioural Activation (BA) and NICE makes a clarion call for more head to head research between BA and CBT. But stresses the need for inclusion of observer rated assessment in such a study, they also may have added that there is a need also for an attention control group. There is a need for more humility in IAPT about the contribution of CBT.
Myth Five: Approval by NICE equals evidence of efficacy
Not so, NICE guidelines are the fruits of a committee’s deliberations, about primarily, the results of randomised controlled trials, but there is no assessment of those rcts using the Cochrane risk of bias, which includes requirements such as observer rated outccomes.
Myth Six: IAPT never departs from NICE
With regards to ‘Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUS) not otherwise specificied’ the recommended specialised form of CBT is entirely a product the IAPT Education and Training Group (ETG). The ETG is also a reference source for the specialised form of CBT for irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain, albeit that 2 NICE guidelines are also referred to.
Myth Seven: IAPT is becoming more robust in evaluation
Not according to its’ recent forays into disorders like chronic fatigue syndrome were reliance is placed on a psychometric test the Chalder Fatigue scale of doubtful relevance to the CFS construct and without any independent observer rating.
Myth Eight: Real world change can happen without hospitality and commitment
Hospitality is notably absent in client’s first contact with IAPT , therapists are focussed on not becoming the subject of sanction. In the real world initial formulation of client’s problem/s is often in need of significant modification, the time constraints on therapists rarely cater for the necessary adaptations and the importance of persistence on the part of the therapist.
Myth Nine: It is ok to discharge a client as soon as their score hits recovery
For 40% of people experiencing depression, their disorder takes a variable course, whilst for the anxiety disorders, sufferers are only affected 80% of the time. Thus discharging at the first signs of a low score is simply capitalising on chance, there can be no certainty that lasting meaningful change has occurred. The stage is set for a revolving door.
This list of myths is by no means exhaustive, please feel free to add your own. However the microscopic and macroscopic worlds are different universes it seems.
compared to how people would have got on anyway if not referred to IAPT (in economist terms the appropriate counterfactual), the ‘added value’ has not been demonstrated. Yet most people receive a low intensity intervention such as computerised CBT, guided self help or groupwork.
I could find no independent outcome assessors involved in the randomised controlled trials of low intensity interventions that the NICE guidance largely relies on. Instead reliance has been placed on IAPT’s marking and marketing of its’ own homework.
In a review of randomised controlled trials published in 4 medical journals Kahan, Rehal and Cro (2015) only a quarter (26%) involved blinded outcome assessment. These authors write ‘Previous reviews have found that unblinded outcome assessment can lead to estimates of treatment effect that are exaggerated between 27% and 68%’ see link below:
But the position appears worse when it comes to psychological therapies with no reliable rcts for low intensity interventions, and with regards to high intensity interventions the few blind outcome assesments are clustered around depression, the anxiety disorders and PTSD. Since the millenium there has been a drift away from the use of outcome assessors, this makes research cheaper, it is much easier to massage statistics to give a positive hue, the originators of an intervention and those with a vested interest are given a free hand.
Researchers on IAPT [seee Bower et al (2013)] play fast and loose with Cochrane risk of bias tool, see link below:
Looked at from the perspective of independent outcome assessment the claims for low intensity interventions look spurious and the evidence base for high intensity interventions is more circumscribed than BABCP conferences or IAPT would suggest.
The IAPT Manual published last year recommends extension of the service to irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain and medically unexplained symptoms not otherwise specified but makes no mention at all of the need for independent blind assessment of outcome, instead it suggests simply what self-report measures should be administered. See link below:
Yet another marketing opportunity, when we need real world answers, how many people said to an impartial observer that they were back to their usual selves after the intervention? how long did this last?
Bernard felt ‘ten times worse’ after his first session of IAPT, Group CBT. He didn’t return for further sessions. IAPT advised him to seek individual therapy via his GP, which he did but none was ever forthcoming. When I saw him it was three years after his industrial accident that rendered him unable to work, his depression had continued unabated. The GP records simply recorded that he did not attend 3 sessions and so was discharged, the implication was that he was at fault!
What had actually happened is that following an IAPT telephone assessment he was invited to therapy at a local centre. On arrival he and others were given a questionnaire to complete. He and about 15 others were then ushered into a room, but there were not enough chairs so some stood. The group leader began asking each of them in turn what their problem was. Bernard protested ‘ I can’t tell my problems in front of all these’, he said that he could see that the young men in the group were agitated and one ‘girl’ on the verge of tears. ‘it was more like a lecture with flipchart and screen’.
The IAPT treatment bears no relationship at all to the group CBT detailed, in my book ‘Simply Effective Group CBT’ published a decade ago by London: Routledge or to what I am trying to promote as Co-chair of the BABCP Group CBT Special Interest Group. A year ago the IAPT Manual was published but none of it confers any protection for a client suffering the same fate. The worry is that in the interest of a numbers game more people will suffer Bernard’s fate.How long is the cover up going to go on!