‘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:
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