Brain Puzzle

CBT “does not work” says second high-profile clinical psychologist

A second high-profile clinical psychologist has delivered a hard-hitting criticism of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) claiming it is simplistic and “does not work”

Dr Oliver James accused government ministers of being “downright dishonest” when they claimed that new NHS CBT-trained therapists will cure half of 900,00 people of their depression and anxiety.

““There is not a single scientific study which supports that claim,” says Dr James.

“Being cheap, quick and simplistic, CBT naturally appeals to the government. Yet the fact is, it doesn’t work,” added Dr James.

His attack in a newspaper column follows that of clinical psychologist Dorothy Rowe. Writing for Dr Rowe said CBT was a “Labour quick fix”.

But CBT supporters say Dr Rowe’s views represented an “out-of-date tirade”.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence states CBT has a solid evidence base for effective treatment for a number of diagnoses, including depression and schizophrenia.

But Dr James quoted a review of CBT by Professor Drew Weston and colleagues in the 2004 Psychological Bulletin (130, 631 663).

“Weston found that two years after treatment, two-thirds of those who had CBT have relapsed or sought further help.” said Dr James.

“If given no treatment, most people with depression drift in and out of it. After 18 months, those given CBT have no better mental health than ones who have been untreated,” added Dr James. Findings for anxiety are similar, he said.

“Methods which go beyond the symptoms to the heart of the matter are infinitely preferable to CBT,” argued Dr James.

“One is cognitive analytic therapy. Initial treatment is for 16 sessions, of which the first four are devoted to the childhood causes. Another helpful treatment is the Hoffman Process, a nine-day programme which tackles the origins of depression.”

Dr James’s criticism comes after the Department of Health announced earlier this month that it is speeding up its access to psychological therapies programme whereby 900,000 people with depression and anxiety will be referred to CBT-trained therapists. Half would be cured, said ministers.

The government said it would invest an extra £13 million into the programme.

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