CBT, Cancer and IAPT

a just published study of CBT for depression in patients with cancer has shown no effect [ Serfaty et al (2019)]. Patients were given CBT by IAPT staff in addition to treatment as usual (TAU) and the results compared with TAU alone. Whether the outcome measure was the PHQ9 or Beck Depression inventory there was no difference in outcome, see link below:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/iitvhyk5eyqjmyi/CBT%20for%20depression%20in%20cancer%202019.pdf?dl=0

The results suggest more generally, that if IAPT’s performance was compared to TAU no difference would be found. The study also casts doubt on the wisdom of IAPT’s sojourn into treating long term physical conditions.

Problems With Engagement

The intervention comprised up to 12 individual sessions (either face to face or over the phone), but the mean number of sessions received was 4.7 and over a third (35.6%) did not take up any sessions. They were all patients expected to live for 4 or more months. Interestingly 60% of patients had a previous history of depression. Of 2224 cancer patients only 10% (230) were found suitable and consented to treatment.

Some Methodological Issues

  1. There was no blind assessment of outcome using the standardised diagnostic interview (MINI) that was used to assess whether a patient was initially clinically depressed.
  2. TAU is a poor comparator as it does not control for the attention and expectations generated by being offered a special treatment (CBT). The appropriate comparator should have been an active placebo
  3. Therapists were rated using the Cognitive Therapy Rating Scale Revised but there is no mention as to whether this predicted outcome.

But CBT Can Make A Real Difference In The Right Hands

At The Right Time

One of the authors of the above study Kathryn Mannix, A Palliative Care Physician, has written a stunning book, With The End In Mind

With the End in Mind: How to Live and Die Well

Her capacity to be with people is truly amazing, this clearly is not just a job, for example her use of CBT with a patient with breathlessness as he awaits a lung transplant (he has cystic fibrosis) is truly exemplary. But she is a very credible source of persuasion with a detailed knowledge of the difficulties of those in Hospice care. I would wholeheartedly recommend you read this book.

Dr Mike Scott

Organisations Bias Diagnosis and Treatment Pathways

Organisations find the diagnosis they were set up for, creating a label that is passed on without critical re-appraisal – ‘sticky labels’. Resulting oftentimes in inappropriate treatment. Culprits are not only the obviously dedicated services such as those  for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) but missionaries of monopoly training bodies such as EMDR and IAPT. The danger is that the Organisations do not seriously consider a contradictory diagnosis.

 

Recently I saw a 14 year old, two years ago a panel decided that he met criteria for ASD. No individual clinician in the ASD pathway had been definitive about an ASD diagnosis, and the possibility had only been raised when he was aged 11. His social communication was in fact good, interrupting mum appropriately in the Consultation. He clearly had behavioural problems, but there had been no consideration of a possible alternative DSM-5 diagnosis of ‘conduct  disorder with limited prosocial emotions’, instead the Panel concluded ‘will need to be taught social skills methods which suit his ASD needs’ but this has never happened in the intervening 2 years. When Panel decisions are made there is a need to be wary as they make riskier decisions (groupthink). His GP has now suggested that he be guided to a general counselling service for adolescence. No chance it seems of CBT appropriate to his and/or his mum’s needs!

In similar fashion EMDR therapists find PTSD everywhere and IAPT finds a mix of anxiety and depression ubiquitous resulting in poorly targetted treatment.

Dr Mike Scott

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

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