IAPT is a comprehensive training program for new psychological therapists in evidence-based psychological therapies recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE); including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy, couples therapy and brief dynamic therapy. Training follows national curricula aligned to agreed competencies. People with depression and/or an anxiety disorder are either referred to IAPT therapists from primary care, or self-refer.
Specialist (IAPT) psychological therapy services for depression and anxiety disorders have been established based on stepped care principles. All patients receive an initial assessment and guidance. Around 60 -70% are considered in need of a full course of treatment within the IAPT service. In line with NICE’s recommendations, many individuals with mild to moderate symptoms are first offered a low intensity intervention (such as guided self-help). If they fail to benefit from this intervention, they are “stepped-up” to high intensity face-to-face therapy. More severe cases plus those with posttraumatic stress disorder or social anxiety disorder go straight to high intensity therapy, as NICE does not recommend stepped care for such individuals.
A comprehensive monitoring, supervision and evaluation system is core to the IAPT model. The system collects performance data on service access, treatment provision and routine patient-reported outcomes, with the latter recorded using validated symptom scales at every therapeutic session. An unprecedented pre- and post-treatment data completeness rate of over 90% has been achieved. The data is collated nationally, presented on a public website, and analysed to identify important lessons that can facilitate further service improvement, as well as providing a case for further scale-up of the program.