Counseling typically provided for depression : role of clinician specialty and payment system

by Lisa S. Meredith, Kenneth B. Wells, Sherrie Kaplan, Rebecca Mazel

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To assess how current policy trends may affect the use of counseling for depression, the authors examined he variation in the use of counseling and usual clinician counseling style for depression across specialty sectors (psychiatry, psychology, and general medicine) and reimbursemenmt type (fee-for-service or prepaid). While almost all depressed patients who were being treated by mental health specialists received brief counseling for at least 3 minutes, less than half of the depressed patients in the general medical sector received such counseling--even for those patients with a current depressive disorder. Couseling rates were lower under prepaid than fee-for-service care in general medical practices. Psychiatrists relied more on psychodynamic approaches, and psychologists relied more on behavioral therapies relative to each other, but both specialty groups provided longer sessions and used more formal psychotherapeutic techniques (e.g., interpretation) than did general medical clinicians. Clinicians who were treating more patients who had prepaid plans reported a lower proclivity for face-to-face counseling, and they spent less time when they were counseling patients compared with clinicians who were treating more patients who had fee-for-service plans; however, these differences were not large. The use of counseling in the usual care for depression varied by both specialty and payment system, while the usual clinician counseling style differed markedly by specialty, but only slightly by payment system.

Originally published in: The Archives of General Psychiatry, v. 53, October 1996, pp. 905-912.

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