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J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2015 Jun;22(5):344-51. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12181.

Improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) and treatment outcomes: epistemological assumptions and controversies.

Author information

1
Mental Health Access Team - IAPT, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Trust, Barnsley, UK.

Abstract

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is recommended as a primary treatment choice in England, for anxiety and depression, by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). It has been argued that CBT has enjoyed political and cultural dominance and this has arguably led to maintained government investment in England for the cognitive and behavioural treatment of mental health problems. The government programme 'Improving Access to Psychological Therapies' (IAPT) aims to improve the availability of CBT. The criticism of the NICE evidence-based guidelines supporting the IAPT programme, has been the dominance of the gold standard randomized controlled trial methodology, with a focus on numerical outcome data, rather than a focus on a recovery narrative. RCT-based research is influenced by a philosophical paradigm called positivism. The IAPT culture is arguably influenced by one research paradigm and such an influence can skew services only towards numerical outcome data as the only truth of 'recovery'. An interpretative paradigm could assist in shaping service-based cultures, alter how services are evaluated and improve the richness of CBT research. This paper explores the theory of knowledge (epistemology) that underpins the evidence-based perspective of CBT and how this influences service delivery. The paper argues that the inclusion of service user narrative (qualitative data) can assist the evaluation of CBT from the user's perspective and can understand the context in which people live and how they access services. A qualitative perspective is discussed as a research strategy, capturing the lived experience of under-represented groups, such as sexual, gender and ethnic minorities. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has enjoyed political and cultural dominance within mental healthcare, with renewed government investment in England for the'Improving Access to Psychological Therapies' (IAPT) programme. The criticism of the evidence-based guidelines, published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which supports the IAPT programme has been the dominance of the gold standard randomized controlled trial methodology. The definition of 'recovery' used by IAPT is based on a positivist position, with a focus on numerical outcome data garnered through psychometric measures. An interpretative perspective of recovery, which would include a subjective individual patient/service user narrative and would include a collaborative qualitative dialogue, is arguably absent from the IAPT programme. The challenge inherent in the IAPT programme is the high demand/high turnover culture, and psychometric measures are quick to administer; however, this culture is driven from one research paradigm. An interpretative paradigm may assist in shaping service-based cultures, alter how services are evaluated, and improve the richness of CBT research.

KEYWORDS:

cognitive and behavioural psychotherapy; evidence-based practice; philosophy; policy; political issues

PMID:
26014832
DOI:
10.1111/jpm.12181
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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