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Psychotherapy in the Veterans Health Administration: Missed Opportunities?

Cully JA, Henderson L, Kunik ME, Tolpin L, Jimenez D, Petersen LA. Psychotherapy in the Veterans Health Administration: Missed Opportunities? Psychological Services. 2008 Nov 1; 5(4):320-331.

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Informed by data on the dose-response effect, the authors assessed use of psychotherapy in the Veterans Health Administration (VA). The authors identified 410,923 patients with newly diagnosed depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder using VA databases (October 2003 through September 2004). Psychotherapy encounters were identified by Current Procedural Terminology codes for the 12 months following patients' initial diagnosis. Psychotherapy was examined for session exposure received within the 12-month follow-up period and time (in days) between diagnosis and treatment. Of the cohort, 22% received at least one session of psychotherapy; 7.9% received four or more sessions; 4.2% received eight or more sessions; and 2.4% received 13 or more sessions. Delays between initial mental health diagnosis and initiation of care averaged 57 days. Patient variables including age, marital status, income, travel distance, psychiatric diagnosis, and medical-illness burden were significantly related to receipt of psychotherapy. Treatment delays and general underuse of psychotherapy services are potential missed opportunities for higher-quality psychotherapeutic care in integrated health care settings.

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