Better Than CBT?

‘Metacognitive therapy (MCT) is a new evidence based psychotherapy that is proving to be more effective than than CBT’ so runs the advert in the April 2019 issue of the Psychologist, promoting an MCT Conference at the end of next month. Inspection of the referenced supporting literature indicates that there is just one, to be published study, by Adrian Wells et al, on Generalised Anxiety Disorder, suggesting MCT outperforming CBT. In MCT their is allegedly a 70-80% recovery rate compared to average 50% in CBT.

But great care has to be taken in evaluating efficacy studies, those relating to GAD are an exemplar. Studies conducted only by the originator of a therapy (Adrian) are necessarily suspect, there needs to be at least one independent study by researchers without an allegiance to the therapy and in which there is blind assessment of outcome using a standardised diagnostic interview. Further the results should include blind rater assessments not merely self-report. Whilst Adrian’s work has not yet cleared this hurdle, a methodologically rigorous analysis of the CBT for GAD studies paints a less convincing picture than most CBT devotees would imagine. A review of CBT for GAD studies by Zhu and colleagues, found just 12 studies as worthy of consideration and commented:

‘Despite having blinded rater, in half the the studies the main outcome depended on the self-rating….The overall risk of bias was considered high in 8 of the 12 studies. And using the rigorous GRADE criteria the overall level of evidence was classified as ‘moderate’, which indicates that further research could change the widely accepted conclusion about the effectiveness of CBT. Thus the results in favor of CBT are strong, but not definitive’. Dropbox link to full article below:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cng09hehty9qo02/GAD%20Meta-analysis.pdf?dl=0

When it comes to studies of CBT for long term physical conditions, the evidence is much weaker than that for GAD which raises the interesting question of ‘why IAPT is treating long term physical conditions’. This very question is to be addressed by a Psychological Welbeing Practioner at an IAPT PWP Conference on June 26th. Interestingly the Workshop is titled ‘Step 2 Support for long term conditions’. But there is surely a gross mismatch between a low intensity intervention and a long term physical condition! It rather looks like distinction between low and high intensity interventions is being blurred, not before time. However a colleague of mine working in high intensity has been trained in treating LTC’s but is restricted to 6 sessions! Despite none of the efficacy studies in this area offering just 6 sessions, I am off to a home for the bewildered and bemused.

Dr Mike Scott

Supervision Of Most IAPT Workers Is Not Supervision – Monumental Waste

Alexandra Painter was for 2 years a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, in her doctoral thesis *, she reviews her experience and that of other PWP’s.  She notes that in the so called ‘Case Management Supervision’ that PWP’s are subjected to, a core component of supervision, the opportunity to reflect on practice and talk about how you feel about cases is routinely absent. Alexandra calculates that approximately 2.5 minutes is allowed to discuss each case! It seems that the PWPs, who are the most numerous of IAPT workers, are at the ‘front line’, most commonly they have been health care assistants in the past,   unlike the high intensity therapist’s in the rear with often clinical or counselling psychology backgrounds. In this war against mental ill health it is more likely that the troops at the front will bear the brunt.

Leaving the troops fearful of going over the top and disobeying commands from on high. The PWP’s plight resembles resembles the Charge of the Life Brigade, in that the powers that be refuse to accept that they are not on solid ground intent on reaching their target at all costs. There are no evidence based techniques, only evidence based treatments and all the so called EBT’s in low intensity treatment fail to meet criteria for evidence based treatment [ Scott (2017) Towards a Mental Health System that Works London Routledge].

  • At least two randomised controlled trials, on a clearly specified population, with independent assessment by a blind rater using a standardised interview
  • At least one of the rcts conducted by researchers independent of the developers of the treatment
  • Replication in routine practice using non-expert clinicians

How long will it be before there is a national outcry about such waste. Unfortunately the National Audit Office is still undecided about whether to publish its’ investigation into IAPT. People including myself and BACP made a submission to the NAO fully expecting the latter’s findings would be made public, if they and I knew that this was not necessarily the case, we would have wondered whether it was worth the effort! At the moment they appear to be countenancing a letter to NHS England, inspection of their website shows the latter’s wholesale support for and funding of IAPT! The NAO, to date, seems no better than Carillion’s Auditors!

Dr Mike Scott

* Painter, A. (2018) Processing people! The purpose and pitfalls of case
management supervision provided for psychological wellbeing practitioners,
working within Improving Access to Psychological Therapies
(IAPT) Services: A thematic analysis. DCounsPsych, University of
theWest of England. Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/33351

Discussion With National Audit Office Re: IAPT

On Monday I received a thoughtful, considered and detailed response from the National Audit Office with regards to my submission re: the IAPT investigation. I’ve just penned the following response:

  1. In 2011 the Secretary for State for Health, Andrew Lansley MP and the Minister of State for Care Services, Paul Burstow, MP said stated ‘we are clear that building services around the outcomes which matter to people is the very essence of personalisation’, [Transparency in outcomes a framework for quality in adult social care (2011) Department of Health] so it cannot be for IAPT to choose the yardstick by which it evaluates itself. People seek physical/ psychological treatment in the hope that they will no longer be suffering from an identified disorder by the end of treatment, this is not a matter of clinical judgement, the yardstick is primarily patient driven. If an agency supplies data that does not allow a determination of whether this transparent yardstick is met, then they are remiss. In this connection IAPT ought to be brought to task by the National Audit Office.
  1. Psychometric tests of themselves do not point to any particular NICE approved treatment, if they had this power NICE would have said so, and they did not. Tests are like road signs blowing in the wind, they can only give direction if anchored in a reliable diagnosis. Inappropriate treatment including a failure to treat ( false positives and false negatives) is inevitably ubiquitous when treatment is not moored to diagnosis. Whilst it is the case that some cut offs are better than others at identifying a ‘case’ of disorder, the  cut offs themselves vary from sample to sample depending on the prevalence of the disorder and are at best relevant to one disorder – in practise people usually have more than one disorder. IAPT essentially has two instruments the PHQ-9 and GAD-7 which they purport measure anything of significance, no medical/scientific professional would claim such powers for just two instruments.
  1. I am unsure whether the National Audit Office are aware of the paper by Griffith’s and Steen (2013) [Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Programme: Scrutinising IAPT Cost Estimates To Support Effective Commissioning, The Journal of Psychological Therapies in Primary Care, 2, 142-156]. that suggest that the cost of IAPT therapy sessions is 3 times more than the Department of Health Impact Assessment estimates and this may lead to very different conclusions about the cost-effectiveness of IAPT. For ease of reference I attach a copy of this paper.
  2. How has the IAPT data set demonstrated that it offers added value over a) services as they existed before IAPT b) non-IAPT services in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? In the absence of such a demonstration it can be questioned whether IAPT overs value for money.
  1. It may be that one part of IAPT say high intensity therapy, is value for money but say low intensity (the most common modality) is not but no such analysis has been proferred. Why?

 

Dr Mike Scott