Mental Health Systems Not Fit For Purpose

The promise of evidence based CBT treatments and antidepressants seems not to be realised in practice, an editorial in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry notes:

‘Despite a 3- to 4-fold increase in the use of antidepressant
medications, the prevalence of depression and anxiety dis
orders in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States has remained unchanged over the past .1 20 years In the absence of compelling evidence that the incidence of these disorders is on the rise, a natural conclusion is that depressed or anxious patients who could benefit from treatment are still not identified and treated, or that the duration of illness has remained unchanged in those who are treated. This is a striking and troubling finding, considering the known efficacy of antidepressants and psychotherapies. It emphasizes both a well-delineated treatment gap, whereby many patients with depression or anxiety do not receive treatment, and a quality gap whereby those who are treated either do not need to be treated or do not receive effective 2-7 treatment’. Click link below for full editorial:

  1. Jorm AF, Patten SB, Brugha TS, et al. Has increased provision
    of treatment reduced the prevalence of common mental disorders?
    Review of the evidence from four countries. World Psychiatry.
  2. Jorm AF. The quality gap in mental health treatment in Australia.
    Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2015;49(10):934-935.
  3. Lin EH, Katon WJ, Simon GE, et al. Low-intensity treatment of depression in primary care: is it problematic? Gen Hosp
    Psychiatry. 2000;22(2):78-83.
  4. Mitchell AJ, Vaze A, Rao S. Clinical diagnosis of depression in
    primary care: a meta-analysis. Lancet. 2009;374(9690): 609-619.
  5. Simon GE, VonKorff M, Wagner EH, et al. Patterns of antidepressant
    use in community practice. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1993;15(6):399-408.
  6. Kendrick T, King F, Albertella L, et al. GP treatment decisions
    for patients with depression: an observational study. Br J Gen
    Pract J R Coll Gen Pract. 2005;55(513):280-286

But the editorial posits that greater collaboration between services would usher in the promised land. Whilst this might be helpful, a failure to understand what constitutes a faithful translation of the positive results of randomised controlled trials for depression and the anxiety disorders [see Scott (2017) Towards a Mental Health System That Works London: Routledge] into routine practice will continue to nullify any actions. Unfortunately in the UK, IAPT continues to pursue its own fundamentalist translation of the randomised controlled trials, despite evidence that it doesn’t work, with just a 15% recovery rate [ Scott (2018) see link below:

Further IAPT has extended its’ empire well beyond the borders of reliable evidence based outcome studies e.g to medically unexplained symptoms. Staff are frightened to speak out publicly. It is difficult to escape charging IAPT with imperialism. Theirs is a dominant narrative in BABCP, British Psychological Society and in journals such as Behaviour Therapy and Research.

Dr Mike Scott

Yesterday’s CBT for PTSD and Beyond ‘A really great workshop it was too’ –

‘Very interesting and lots of new ideas for approaching what can be a complicated mind field’. Delighted Christine Roberts twittered this response, thanks. It was a full house at the Lakeside Centre, Crosby, Liverpool, super day except for a microphone that had a life of its’ own!


But there was unanimous agreement from the 80 participants that generally therapists are a) stressed out b) daren’t publicly voice there discontent with IAPT. One person voiced that the customary IAPT 6 sessions is like putting a sticking plaster on a wound and all you get is a revolving door of clients. We need to stop the bleeding.

The voices of dissent are not in evidence at Nationally Organised BABCP Events, indeed I did not go to the Annual Conference because it looked like a further feast of uncritical acclaim of IAPT, reflected in the current issue of CBT Today.

The great thing at the Workshop is that we were able to address participants concerns e.g comorbid PTSD and OCD in a 15 year old. But we were all at a loss as to how to break out of the current mode of IAPT delivery, it seemed to resonate with being a citizen of some totalitarian state.

Dr Mike Scott

A New First Line Approach To PTSD

On March 4th 2020  I gave a One Day Workshop  Getting Back To Me Post Trauma   detailing the practical implications of my recently published paper ptsd an alternative paradigm. Hope you enjoy the Powerpoint presentation and find the paper interesting. There is a video commentary on the day at, please feel free to make your comments and observations there or e-mail me on

I have just been preparing for a Workshop, I am delivering to the Merseyside Branch of BABCP, on October 4th 2018, titled ‘CBT for PTSD and Beyond’. At this Workshop I shall  unveil my KISS Model of PTSD. KISS for the uninitiated stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. Unlike trauma focussed models of CBT and EMDR, it does not assume a flawed traumatic memory or arrested information processing.



As part of the presentation I will be saying that therapists should beware of questionnaires as they will overidentify symptoms because:

a) they don’t tease out whether a particular symptom is making a ‘Real World’ Difference e.g a respondent might indicate upsetting dreams, but if they are not woken by the dream and distressed this is not significant functional impairment and so would not count as a symptom that is ‘present’

b) in completing a questionnaire client’s are often not clear about the time frame under consideration, endorsing flashbacks/nightmares when they did have them initially but they are past, and also endorsing symptoms currently present such as poor sleep. For a diagnosis of disorder symptoms have to be simultaneously present and each must make a ‘real world’ difference. Only in an interview can you tease out both and request concrete examples of the extent to which a symptom is impairing functioning

Dr Mike Scott

Delivering Group CBT – A Special Interest Group

For many years I have been running a ‘Delivering Group CBT’, Workshop following the June 15th Workshop in Manchester, there were 25 signatories for a BABCP Special Interest Group. An application for a SIG has now been made. Anyone interested in joining this merry band would be appreciated, just e-mail me at


The following is a link to the Powerpoint for my recent workshop A key feature is that it avoids the dichotomy either individual or group CBT.


Dr Mike Scott

Current Supervision Practices Have Not Prevented the Poor Outcomes In IAPT


With a 10% recovery rate in IAPT, serious questions have to be asked about the quality of supervision.  But it could be that Supervisors in IAPT feel that their role is constricted or the use of practitioner league tables sabotages their endeavours. Clearly something is going badly wrong. However it could also be that current supervision practices whether or not they take place in IAPT are not fit for purpose, they are eminence rather than evidence based.


‘Its’ about monitoring, personal development – a bit like treating a client, has to be tailored to the supervisee’ this seemed to be the consensus at a BABCP Supervision Workshop I attended with about 40 others in Liverpool last week.  The presenter Jason Roscoe, asked the 40 attendees what model of supervision they followed, there was a deafening silence. He then presented the Roth and Pilling competencies for supervision, I opined that just looking at the rows and columns gave me ‘mental  indigestion’.  Given the outbursts of laughter I think that this was a widely shared view.  I had a sense that people feel rudderless with regards to supervision, and there was no enthusiasm about becoming a BABCP accredited supervisor.

I suggested that the prime function of supervision is to act as a conduit for evidence based treatment. Since the Workshop I have reflected that no alternative definitions of the prime  function were offered rather the Bennett-Levy model of supervision involving 3 different types of knowledge declarative, procedural and reflective was recommended. The implication was that one might need to do more or less on any one of these forms of knowledge with any particular supervisee. Hmm I thought, this is no different to what one would do with a client in treatment. The offering at the Workshop was I found typical of what passes for evidence in BABCP with regards to supervision, but there is sparse evidence such supervision makes a real world difference to client’s lives. What is known is that supervision has been an integral part of randomised controlled trials and that type of supervision can be considered evidence based. It follows that to the extent that this type of supervision is adopted, with its’ emphasis on reliable diagnosis and fidelity checks for adherence and competence one is still in the ball park of evidence based supervision ( see Simply Effective CBT Supervision London: Routledge).

Dr Mike Scott

Evidence Base for CBT Depends On How You Focus The Camera

What NICE says about the efficacy of CBT has been taken as gospel, but Moriana et al (2017) have pointed out that what other similar bodies say is significantly different. The actions of practitioners are micro-managed by august bodies such as NICE (via IAPT), Division 12 (Clinical Psychology American Psychological Association, Cochrane and the Australian Psychological Society, an essentially top down process is in operation.  But which, if any should be the determinant?

Rather than arguing about which body has produced the best synthesis of outcome studies the focus should shift to bottom up, asking how does cbt fare in routine practice?

Tolin et al (2015) have suggested that a treatment should only be regarded as effective if there has been a randomised controlled trial of the intervention in routine practice using non-specialist therapists, further the researchers should be independent of those who originally developed the treatment.  This has been adopted by the American Psychological Association. An additional requirement should be that the ‘gold standard’ entry requirement for the trial, admission by a standardised diagnostic interview, should also be the primary outcome measure as assessed by independent blind assessors.  Only in this way can it be known whether the treatment makes a real world difference i.e it will be known that x% no longer suffer from the disorder at the end of treatment compared to y% in the control condition. Without these diagnostic strictures one ends up with the highly questionable conclusion of Pybis et al (2017) that cbt and counselling are equally effective. Tolin et al (2015) have suggested the external validity criteria have been fulfilled in the case of CBT for OCD, but when we look at other disorders such as trauma focussed cbt for PTSD it is doubtful that it clears such a high methodological bar, for example the supposed replication of Ehers et al  CBT for PTSD (2005) by Gillespie et al in Northern Ireland did not involve a standardised diagnostic interview as the primary outcome measure, further there were no independent assessors.

It may be that the struggles of practitioners to achieve performance targets are not so much to do with their deficiencies as inherent in the context within which they are working. Singling out ‘poor performers’ may be unjust in extremis. Pybis et al (2017) concluded that ‘half of all patients (IAPT clients) regardless of type of intervention (counselling or CBT) , did not show reliable improvement’, leaving aside whether the IAPT self-report mesasures they review are at all meaningful, are half the therapists going to be put in the dock?

Ehlers, A et al (2005) Cognitive therapy for PTSD development and evaluation. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43, 413-431.

Gillespie, K et al (2002) Community based cognitive therapy in the treatment of PTSD following the Omagh bomb. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 345-357.

Moriana, J.A et al (2017) Psychological treatments for mental disorders in adults: A review of the evidence of leading international organizations. Clinical Psychology Review, 54, 29-34

Pybis, J et al (2017) The comparative effectiveness and efficiency of cognitive behaviour therapy and generic counselling in the treatment of depression: evdence from the 2nd UK National Audit of psychological therapies. BMC Psychiatry, 17:215

Tolin, D.F et al (2015) Empirically supported treatment: recommendations for a new model. Clinical Psychology Science and Practice, 22, 317-338.

Dr Mike Scott


CBT Researchers Have Abandoned Independent Blind Assesment – Beware of Findings

I have been looking in vain for the last time CBT researchers assessed outcome on the basis of independent blind assessment, which was a cornerstone of the initial randomised controlled trials of CBT.  Current CBT research is more about academic clinicians marketing their wares. Journals such as Behaviour Research and Therapy and Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy and organisations such as BABCP and BPS are happily complicit in this. The message is give a subject a self-report measure to complete, it is less costly than expensive highly trained independent interviewers blinded to treatment, forget about the demand characteristics of a self-report measure ( a wish to please those who have provided a service) and don’t worry if the measure does not accurately reflect the construct under question. My psychiatric colleagues might be forgiven for saying that at least the trials of antidepressants have usually been double blinded, if since the millennium CBT studies have rarely managed to be single blinded, is it time the CBT-centric era ended? But purveyors of other psychotherapies have even more rarely bought into the importance of independent blind assessment.

The overall impact of inattention to independent blind assessment is that the case for pushing CBT is actually not as powerful as the prime movers in the field would have us believe, this may actually be a relief to struggling practitioners. For example Zhu et al (2014) [Shangai Arch Psychiatry, 26, 319-331 examined 12 randomised controlled trials of CBT for generalised anxiety disorder in which there was supposedly independent blind assessment  but in 6 of the 12 studies the main outcome measure was based on the results of a self-reported scale completed by the client (i.e outcome was not actually assessed by the blinded assessor) and concluded that the quality of the evidence supporting the conclusion that CBT was effective for GAD was poor. A meta-analysis of outcome studies  conducted by Cuijpers (2016) World Psychiatry, 15, 245-258 found that using criteria of the Cochrane risk of bias tool only 17% (24 of 144) rct’s of CBT for anxiety and depressive disorders were of high quality. Cuijper et al concluded that CBT ‘is probably effective in the treatment of MDD, GAD, PAD and SAD; that the effects are large when the control condition is waiting list, but small to moderate when it is care-as-usual or pill placebo; and that, because of the small number of high-quality trials, these effects are still
uncertain and should be considered with caution’. Only half the studies had blind assessors and it is not clear whether they were the determinants of outcome or a client completed self-report measure, the study needs further analysis. My impression is that the weakest of studies are those examining guided self-help, computer assisted CBT, (the step 2 interventions in IAPT) yet these interventions are most commonly offered.

Dr Mike Scott

The Scientist Practitioner Delusion?

‘Surviving this week as a therapist, trumps being a scientist practitioner’, there were gasps of surprise and murmurs of agreement, as I said this at a recent IAPT Workshop I was giving. I mused out loud about who had the space to collect data on a client, write it up and present it for publication. No contrary voices were raised despite the scientist practitioner model being an article of faith on CBT training courses.  Students should be invited to write an essay on ‘The Scientist Practitioner Delusion?’

The engineering narrative is a better descriptor for the overwhelming majority of CBT practitoners, rather than being invited to ape academic clinicians, for whom the scientist practitioner model is probably the best descriptor. But the concerns of the true ‘scientist practitioners’ are very different to the engineers, yet they dominate service provision, conferences etc. I remember Paul Salkovskis, Current President of BABCP, once saying to me that the membership speaks with a small voice, but this isn’t surprising, if most are powerless, stressed engineers. I debated with Paul at an Annual Conference a few years ago but he didn’t see a problem with scientist practitioner as a universal descriptor and was dismissive of the idea of engineers.

But whilst it was scientists who developed the first computers, vis a vis Alan Turing at Bletchley Park in the war years (The Imitation Game is a brilliant watch!), it was engineers who developed the personal computer that we all know. Dissemination needs a creative dialogue between scientists (scientist practitioners) and engineers.

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, 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.