'A factory of therapy': accountability and the monitoring of psychological therapy in IAPT

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Since the introduction of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme in NHS England, psychological therapy has gained traction as ‘evidence-based’ and ‘effective’ in both clinical and economic terms. In the process, psychotherapeutic care has been reconstituted as highly manualised, standardised, and quantifiable. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork with mental health practitioners, this paper examines some common tensions that practitioners experience in their daily work where psychotherapy is sought within the framework of evidence-based medicine (EBM). For therapists working within IAPT, extensive monitoring and practices of accountability have come to undermine psychotherapeutic efforts to care for patients as ‘people’. As a result, many practitioners now feel that they are working in a ‘factory of therapy’ whereby psychological treatment is recast in the service of outcome measures, and by which critique of the IAPT service, as well as caring relations within it, have been precluded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalAnthropology and Medicine
Early online date19 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jul 2023


  • psychological therapy
  • mental healthcare
  • IAPT
  • monitoring
  • accountability
  • CBT
  • evidence-based psychotherapy

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