‘Too Complex for IAPT’ – Dumping on Secondary Care?

I work in secondary care as a band 7 CBT therapist within a CMHT. Often I will have referrals sent directly from IAPT who describe the patient as being too ‘complex’. Indeed this seems to have become an actual care pathway (not that we have too many of those). As far as i can tell at this stage  the patient may have not had a face to face assessment, rather has been deemed too complex simply because of the stated diagnosis e.g if they have a so  called personality disorder. I have also been told that if someone scores a above a certain score on the HADS scale (I don’t understand why this particular measure is being used as the ‘cut off’)  they too are apparently ‘too complex’. I am also told that  the outcome measures used by IAPT apparently mean that the ‘too complex clients’ would impact on these performance scales which in turn  could mean further funding for the service is jeopardized.

This concerns me on two fronts. Firstly in principle… this seems to completely  go against the ethos  of  the IAPT envisioned by Layard & Clark (although how workable or realistic this ever actually was in another thread) and another example of how it  seems management  are ‘cooking the books’ . Secondly on a more  personal level  I am employed in same Trust as a band 7 cbt therapist , i have no support from care coordinators and supposedly have the same amount of sessions to offer patients so how can possibly i offer anything different to IAPT? I suspect management know I can’t , but i ( and my colleague) serve as  i convenient sponge to soak up all the pts that may threaten the outcome measures…


I wonder has anyone else working in secondary care had  similar experiences  or is this an isolated thing ?

‘How Do I Deliver Effective CBT Where I am?’

The contexts in which CBT Practitioners work vary enormously, from independent practice to secondary care, from low intensity IAPT to a specialised trauma unit.  For the most part we are Engineers struggling to work within the organisational constraints we are given.  Drawing on our knowledge and skills, working with a diverse population, trying to make a real world, socially significant difference in client’s lives.  The pressing question is how can I deliver effective CBT where I am?

A practitioner working in secondary care in Ireland,  told me he faces the challenge of cases come to him via psychiatrists, there is a preliminary assessment within 4 weeks of referral, a maximum of 12 sessions of CBT are offered.  There is a progress review about the 6th session and a decision is made as to whether another 6 sessions would be beneficial. He asks is this best practice? The managerial edict he believes is to throughput as many clients as possible.

Another practitioner, from IAPT High Intensity told me that she had taken up her post on the understanding that the 6 session maximum was flexible and clients could be quickly re-referred back in for more sessions, but this has proved to be very rarely the case. What should she do?


Dr Mike Scott