Cognitive behavioral therapy and primary care

Treating a patient holistically becomes increasingly important as the healthcare environment shifts to a value-based care model. Primary care physicians are encouraged to not only focus on the physical health of their patients but also on their mental and behavioral health. A patient’s overall situation, including potential depression and even economic stressors, can impact the outcomes of a planned healthcare strategy. Part of the treatment for behavioral health concerns in the primary care practice may include cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT).

In particular, a recent Kaiser Permanente study found that “Cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) delivered in a primary care setting is a cost-effective way to treat adolescents with depression who decline or quickly stop using antidepressants.” However, previous studies found that “mental health providers in the primary care setting face challenges to implementation of traditional evidence-based psychotherapies.”

Research published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health suggests that “patients treated in primary care are distinct from specialty mental healthcare patients (e.g., present with physical health concerns and fewer chronic and severe mental health difficulties) and require modifications to traditional approaches.” Their data “also suggest that primary care patients may benefit from mental health interventions that are less intensive and focus treatment around physical as well as emotional health concerns.”

Additional research has found that “CBT improved time to diagnostic recovery from major depression for teenagers who received CBT in their primary care clinic.” Depression is a costly healthcare concern in the US, not only for the danger it poses to patients but also for the financial impact, estimated to be around $210 billion each year. Implementing CBT in a primary care setting has been shown to help reduce the incidence of new diagnoses of depression as well as reduce the recovery time for those already suffering from depression.