Is Evidence Based Treatment Possible Without Evidence Based Assessment?

‘no’, this is the take home message from a just published study by Moses et al in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0887618520300931. An evidence based assessment includes a diagnostic interview, as well as a clinical interview and psychometric tests. Moses et al (2020) summarise the literature that the inclusion of a diagnostic interview improves outcome, by minimising missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis. These authors bemoan their finding that only a small minority of Australian psychologists use a diagnostic interview, but the position is even worse in the UK, as the largest provider of services the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) explicitly excludes the making of diagnosis/diagnostic interviews.   IAPT cannot improve access to evidence based psychological therapies because it does not operate the admission gate of an evidence based assessment.

The absence of an EBA leads to a revolving door, demoralising clients in search of a credible explanation of their difficulties. An EBA is a necessary part of evidence based practice (EBP) in that it highlights candidate evidence supported treatments (ESTs). But clinical judgement is still required to ascertain whether there is a sufficient match between client and the subjects in the EST. Most ESTs have admitted clients to the study with a limited range of comorbid disorders and have not been cognitively impaired, or suffering debilitating pain. Further the clients in the EST have been in a safe environment. 

 

Dr Mike Scott

My black cloud, revolving door and IAPT

‘I found Silvercloud ineffective, generic and not tailored to my personal situation. It wasn’t engaging or helpful and as such I didn’t engage with the website very much. Consequently, the following weekly call with the IAPT therapist  were sometimes made difficult by the fact I hadn’t completed the same questionnaire as the week before or read through articles. I wanted to talk about my situation, my feelings and find out why I was feeling the way I was, but I felt I was just being led back to using the online Silvercloud resource.

‘It was in 2017 that my doctor suggested I try Silvercloud online CBT with telephone support and in September 2017, I started speaking to another IAPT counsellor. He seemed to be a very nice man. After a few weekly calls, he stated that he didn’t believe I was depressed and so he changed the original Silvercloud course I had started and reset it back to a new series of 6 sessions. The weekly calls lasted between 20 minutes to an hour depending on what we discussed, but always concluded with him asking me to log onto Silvercloud and work my way through the programme before our next call. After the requisite 6 sessions finished in February 2018, that was it! No answers, no tools to help me cope, just signed off, discharged, but told I had 12 month access to SilverCloud. I haven’t used the resource since.

I had a very poor experience of counselling through IAPT around 2013. I had been scheduled 6 sessions, these hour long sessions were so ineffective and pointless I can hardly recall anything that was discussed. I may have missed a couple of sessions due to work, but once the 6 sessions expired, I was discharged even though I may have only seen the counsellor 4 times. All I can recall is going over the initial questionnaire about my mood over the previous week which I had been told to monitor through photocopied pictures and graphs which I was told to keep in a file and bring to each appointment’.

 

 

The above is the anonymous report of a depressed client of mine, who is responding very well to my cbt treatment. Not only is she scathing about her IAPT treatment but also about her treatment from her GP:

‘At its height, I was being prescribed 200mg sertraline, 80mg of propranolol. I went to see my doctor for something routine, when she commented on my ‘low mood’ and suggested increasing my antidepressants. I told her I was already taking the maximum dosage and said I didn’t want to take more prescription medicine. I was already taking 200mg of setraline and 80mg of propranolol at that time. My prescriptions had been increased over a period of time without much investigation. In a short 5-10 minute appointment, my ‘low mood’ was usually commented upon and an increase in antidepressant and/or beta blocker was almost automatically prescribed.
In early 2018, I went to see my doctor and insisted that we work together to reduce my medication as I felt so unwell and was sure that the amount of medication I was taking was actually making me feel worse rather than better’.

There is no substitute for really listening.

Dr Mike Scott