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:

Current Supervision Practices Have Not Prevented the Poor Outcomes In IAPT


With a 10% recovery rate in IAPT, serious questions have to be asked about the quality of supervision.  But it could be that Supervisors in IAPT feel that their role is constricted or the use of practitioner league tables sabotages their endeavours. Clearly something is going badly wrong. However it could also be that current supervision practices whether or not they take place in IAPT are not fit for purpose, they are eminence rather than evidence based.


‘Its’ about monitoring, personal development – a bit like treating a client, has to be tailored to the supervisee’ this seemed to be the consensus at a BABCP Supervision Workshop I attended with about 40 others in Liverpool last week.  The presenter Jason Roscoe, asked the 40 attendees what model of supervision they followed, there was a deafening silence. He then presented the Roth and Pilling competencies for supervision, I opined that just looking at the rows and columns gave me ‘mental  indigestion’.  Given the outbursts of laughter I think that this was a widely shared view.  I had a sense that people feel rudderless with regards to supervision, and there was no enthusiasm about becoming a BABCP accredited supervisor.

I suggested that the prime function of supervision is to act as a conduit for evidence based treatment. Since the Workshop I have reflected that no alternative definitions of the prime  function were offered rather the Bennett-Levy model of supervision involving 3 different types of knowledge declarative, procedural and reflective was recommended. The implication was that one might need to do more or less on any one of these forms of knowledge with any particular supervisee. Hmm I thought, this is no different to what one would do with a client in treatment. The offering at the Workshop was I found typical of what passes for evidence in BABCP with regards to supervision, but there is sparse evidence such supervision makes a real world difference to client’s lives. What is known is that supervision has been an integral part of randomised controlled trials and that type of supervision can be considered evidence based. It follows that to the extent that this type of supervision is adopted, with its’ emphasis on reliable diagnosis and fidelity checks for adherence and competence one is still in the ball park of evidence based supervision ( see Simply Effective CBT Supervision London: Routledge).

Dr Mike Scott

IAPT Behind Closed Doors – Supervision

As I mentioned in my first post last week I was working in IAPT in Bury in 2015. Clinical Supervision was delivered in the group setting and was not compulsory to attend.  Often the supervision had to be postponed for several weeks if the supervisor was either not available or was on holiday or had casework at a higher step which took precedence over the needs of the group.  Personal supervision was a similarly structured affair, with pressure and time constraints eating into very short sessions.


It was incumbent upon the supervisee to ensure that “risky cases” were discussed in a timely manner, since it was the supervisee’s responsibility to “raise the alarm”.  In many cases, the supervisee was not aware that any alarm needed to be raised, since they were inexperienced with either the identification or managing of risk with regard to mental health patients.  Please do not take this as a criticism of my colleagues; it is a criticism of the system’s failure to provide them with the knowledge they needed to understand the risks.

Anonymity protected Dr Mike Scott


Do You Suffer From Formulation Nausea?

Formulation Nausea (FN) is induced by a bewildering array of arrows, resulting in disorientation. It is maintained by exaggerating the idiosyncracy of a client’s difficulties. Training courses may serve as vulnerability factors with Organisational factors e.g supervision acting as an immediate preciptant. Sufferers from FN are often stressed in silence, to reveal it to course leaders, supervisors may be taken as a sign of ‘weakness’.

The antidote is ‘case formulation’ as opposed to ‘formulation’. A case formulation is a specific example of the cognitive model of the disorder. Without  reliably defining what the person is a ‘case/s’ of the 5 P’s above lead nowhere and is likely to generate a 6th P! To overcome FN regular usage of ‘case’ formulation for at least 3 months is necessary for full recovery