The Gagging of Clients as Storytellers

‘don’t listen to the story treat the symptom’ that is the advise to be given to IAPT’s PWP’s attending a 3 hour workshop on November 28th 2019 on groupwork. It reflects similar advise given to IAPT clients attending a 6 week course on ‘Understanding PTSD’ in which clients are instructed not to talk about their trauma rather to reflect on what they have found helpful so far. This gagging of IAPT clients is consistant with the Organisation’s 30 minute telephone assessment. But it is inconsistant with the need to help client’s overcome cognitive avoidance e.g in PTSD avoiding talking about their trauma.

In Simply Effective Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Routledge (2009)

I suggested that clients need treatment simultanously for all the disorders from which they are suffering. This is to look at the totality of the clients story, not to elevate one part of it (e.g the disorder that is most impairing) and just treat that. Interestingly Barlow et al 2017 see link below compared focussing just on the main disorder from which a person was suffering (from amongst panic disorder, GAD, social anxiety disorder and GAD, even though most people had more than one disorder) with a protocol that could be adapted for any of these disorders ( termed a Unified Protocol) and retention of clients was better with the latter. This suggests that addressing the whole story is best as well as being more respectful.

Care has to be taken however with Barlow’s transdiagnostic approach, in that the term denotes just those suffering from an anxiety disorder excluding PTSD. Over half of clients had a degree. All treatments were developed by Barlow and his colleagues, there has been no independent replication. Treatment was individual, no evidence that it works in groups. The treating clinicians were highly qualified/trained and did both treatments, as the UP was the new kid in the block and their ‘kid brother’ that may explain the slightly better results with UP.

Barlow et al (2017) https://www.dropbox.com/s/22qz932flxroas3/The%20Unified%20Protocol%20for%20Transdiagnostic%20Treatment%20of%20Emotional%20Disorders%20Compared%20With%20Diagnosis-Specific%20Protocols%20for%20Anxiety%20Disorders.html?dl=0

Dr Mike Scott

Missing The Boat With A Focus on Pressing Concerns

As a matter of respect clinicians necessarily focus on a client’s pressing concerns, but the time constraints imposed by routine services, such as IAPT, means that this becomes the sole focus. The upshot is that initially the client’s focus is say on their depression but at the next appointment on disturbing flashbacks/nightmares of child abuse and at the next appointment they may mention occasional excessive use of alcohol causing arguments at home. The clinician doesn’t know where they are working is this depression? PTSD? relationship problems/ alcohol dependence? or some combination thereof. This means the clinician is unable to help the client navigate through the fog of their difficulties, changing tack with every gust of wind.

Alternatively the clinician might simply pursue the first disorder ‘identified’ because the client doesn’t mention any other, discharging the client at the first signs of an improvement on some psychometric test or when progress has been made on that disorder. Despite the client actually suffering from a number of other disorders, making any gains in the ‘successful’ domain likely short lived. The client’s then go thru a revolving door. It seems that clients are rarely asked ‘are you back to your usual self following this treatment? and importantly ‘how long have you been back to your usual self for? [ anything less than 8 weeks is likely nothing more than the waxing and waning of the natural course of a client’s symptoms].

One of the ways of getting the bigger picture is to first use an open ended interview that contains the screen below, the dropbox link for this

APPENDIX A. SCIP screening questions
Codes: 0=absent, 1=present, 8=unsure, 9=missing data, unless otherwise
specified in the question
Questions apply to the present episode, typically the past month, unless otherwise
specified by the interviewer.
HAVE YOU:

  1. Felt very anxious and afraid out of proportion to the situation (with or
    without physical symptoms) for more than one month?
  2. Had panic attacks, when you suddenly felt anxious and frightened and
    developed physical symptoms, such as fast heart beat, shaking, or
    sweating?
  3. Been afraid of going out of the house alone, traveling alone, being alone,
    being in crowds?
  4. Been afraid and anxious doing things in front of people, such as eating in
    public, speaking in public?
  5. Had unpleasant and unwanted thoughts or images coming into your mind
    over and over even if you try to get rid of them? Examples: Contamination
    or aggressive, sexual, or religious thoughts.
  6. Had the urge to do things over and over and could not resist doing them
    (such as washing your hands even if they are clean, checking doors,
    counting up to certain numbers, reciting phrases)?
  7. Witnessed or experienced a traumatic event that involved actual or
    threatened death or serious injury to you or someone else (e.g., physical or
    sexual abuse, terrorist attack, natural disaster, war)? Did you feel intense
    fear and helplessness?
  8. Re-experience the traumatic event in the last month in a distressing way
    (flashback, nightmare)?
  9. Had physical symptoms or physical illness for which doctors did all
    necessary work up and could not find medical explanation?
  10. Had pain and your doctor did all necessary work up and could not really
    explain?
  11. Worried about gaining weight to the point that you self-induced vomiting,
    or used diet pills, laxatives, or heavy exercise?
  12. Eaten a large amount of food within an hour or so, that is binge eating?
  13. Felt or described your mood as sad, downcast, gloomy, low in spirits, or
    depressed?
  14. Been unable to enjoy things like walking, working at your hobbies, or
    socializing with friends as usual?
  15. Had thoughts about harming yourself or even made an attempt at suicide
    (Include whether thought was due to depression or not)?
  16. Felt very happy, elated without reason, or very irritable without reason?
  17. Had mood swings: periods of depression and elation or irritability?
  18. Felt that people are spying on you, follow you around, talk about you?
    Felt that there is a plot or conspiracy against you?
  19. Felt that people are trying to harm you or poison your food?
  20. Had experiences of hearing voices or noises that other people cannot hear?
  21. Had experiences of seeing things (images, flashes, shadows, objects,
    people, whole scene) that other people cannot see?
  22. Been violent in the past (with or without the influence of alcohol or drugs)?
  23. I would like to ask you questions on alcohol use over the past year:
    A. On days when you drank, did you drink >5 alcohol drinks per day
    (sometimes)?
    B. Did you have any problems resulting from drinking alcohol?
  24. I would like to ask you questions on illicit drug use (e.g. marijuana) over
    the past year:
    A. Did you use the illicit drug >10 times per month?
    B. Did you have any problems resulting from using the illicit drug?

is also below:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/j5rfmy6hthp6142/Reliability%20of%20Diagnoses%20SCIP.pdf?dl=0

then when you have an idea of possible diagnoses you can make systematic enquiry about all the symptoms of that disorder using the diagnostic questions in Simply Effective CBT Scott (2009).

In my view the poor results for therapy in routine practice is often because the therapist doesn’t know what they are dealing with rather than therapeutic competence per se.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/flvxtq2jyhmn6i1/IAPT%20The%20Need%20for%20Radical%20Reform.pdf?dl=0

Dr Mike Scott

Without IAPT, The Same ‘50%’ Recovery Rate – Why Do CCG’s Fund It?

One of IAPT’s criteria for claiming patient recovery is shifting a patient’s PHQ9 score to less than 10. But in a study by Gilbody et al (2015) [ see link below] involving 179 patients undergoing treatment as usual in primary care with an initial diagnoses of depression and PHQ9 scores of above 10, 101, (56%) of patients recovered within 4 months. [ A study of treatment as usual cases by Moore at al (2012) similarly showed a 47% recovery].  IAPT currently claims a 50% recovery rate, the burden of proof is on IAPT to demonstrate that it produces results significantly different to those treatments engaged in before its’ inception.

Even when the metric is an adequate treatment response the differences between IAPT and treatment as usual (TAU) are not apparent. In the study  by Moore et al (2012) [see link below] of 576 TAU cases of depression who completed the PHQ9 twice (mostly within 3 months)  63% showed an adequate treatment response ( a drop of 5 or more points), this is not  discernibly different to IAPT’s findings.

CCG’s want it seems to be seen to be mindful of mental health, as their masters NHS England dictate, but don’t want to engage in effortful thinking in this domain, bypassing it by talking only of operational matters, numbers, waiting times etc.  It is a new political correctness that also permeates the political parties.

The true metric of recovery is returning a person to their usual self ( a minimum component of which is losing diagnostic status, assessed independently), IAPT has studiously avoided  such a hard outcome measure preferring its’ own surrogate. All this despite that the original randomised controlled trials for anxiety and depression insisting on hard outcome measures.

 

Unfortunately mental health charities are often now dependent on IAPT and private agencies seek to ape IAPTs metrics, the upshot is that for the past decade there has been precious little evidence based psychological treatment of the sort I advocated in Simply Effective CBT London: Routlege (2009).

https://www.dropbox.com/s/awwtpdhv0mxbtht/Treatment%20as%20usual%20recovery%20rate%202015%20Gilbody.pdf?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mupj14fq14eba4g/Depression%2050%25%20natural%20recovery%20on%20PHQ9%20within%203%20months%20of%20GP%20diagnosis.pdf?dl=0

Dr Mike Scott

A New Year Resolution – Take a First Step to Evidence Based Assessment

It is likely that for most agencies 80% of the work is in relation to a few disorders, (Pareto’s Law of the ‘Vital Few’) so developing an expertise  at identifying these accurately represents a good investment of time and effort.        First of all it is necessary to accurately audit what is coming in through you agency, this could involve using a screen for the 10 most common disorders, the First Step Questionnaire Revised ( available freely on this blog) and then  ask the further diagnostic questions in Simply Effective CBT  [ Scott (2009)] for any positive screen.  Knowing say the 4 commonest disorders dealt with by your agency it would be comparitively easy to cascade training for the accurate identification of these to front line staff, who have perhaps little training.   At a later date training can be given in say the next 4 most common disorders  and  so on so ultimately there is a comprehensive assessment.  Such rigorous assessment is also the best way of monitoring outcome.

Questionnaires completed by the client are subject to demand characteristics, clients wanting to please the therapist or convince themselves that they haven’t wasted time in attending therapy. Administration of weekly psychometric tests are particularly suspect, as clients can remember their scoring and show reductions which can be mistaken for real world differences.

 

Dr Mike Scott

Gifting Evidence Based Assessment

Evidence based assessment (EBA) is like unwrapping a Christmas present, the first layer is ‘What are we dealing  with (prediction)?, the next what are the options for use, ‘what can we do about it (prescription)? the core is whether the present has made a real world difference ‘ how will we know if we are accomplishing our goals (process)?

 

The three phase approach to EBA, prediction, prescription and process is described (minus the Christmas present!) in December’s Clinical Psychology Science and Practice by Youngstrom et al with an accompanying commentary (including the questions above) by Steven D Hollon.   Youngstrom et al suggest screening for the 10 disorders that most likely comprise 80% of your workload. This can be achieved using the First Step questionnaire from Simply Effective CBT, Scott (2009) London: Routledge an updated free version for 10 disorders is on this blog. Then using a standardised semi-structured interview for positive screens to reliably identify disorders.  Knowing the disorder/s it is possible to predict what is likely to be the best treatment, and prescribe appropriate treatment targets and matching strategies.  Assessment is not just a front end process, assessing whether there has been appropriate process can only be gauged at the end when the assessment is repeated to determine whether the client has got their life back.

 

 

 

In practice many therapists paddle their own canoe, if they stop long enough to really listen they would find that despite the client’s politeness, oftentimes scoring a psychometric test low to please the therapist (weekly administrations have also been found to artificially lower scores), there has not been the real world change.

A very Happy Christmas to Everyone

 

Dr Mike Scott