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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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More Veterans Accessing Treatment for Common Mental Health Problems

November 18, 2013

Increasing numbers of Veterans are getting psychotherapy, getting it quickly and attending more sessions than in prior years, according to a recent study by Department of Veterans Affairs Researchers at the Houston VA HSR&D Center.   The study, published in Psychiatric Services last month, looked at changes in the use of psychotherapy (a common form of mental health treatment), within the Veterans Health Administration over a seven year period. 

“This study is a testament to VA’s increased emphasis on providing quick and effective mental health services to Veterans,” said Dr. Juliette Mott, PhD, Research Health Scientist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) in Houston.  “Results suggest that not only are an increasing number of Veterans getting psychotherapy, they are also getting care more quickly and are attending more sessions.”

The research study focused on national trends in Veterans’ use of psychotherapy in the year after they received a new mental health diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression. 

“Mental health conditions such as PTSD, anxiety and depression are especially common in Veterans,” Mott added.  “Although effective treatments for these mental health conditions exist, mental health providers and services are often in short supply, making it difficult for patients to get the care they need.  This study shows that VA’s efforts to increase access to and participation in mental health services has had  positive results.”

Study findings: 

• More Veterans are accessing psychotherapy services
        o Psychotherapy use among Veterans has increased substantially in recent years. 
        o In 2010, a total of 155,121 Veterans with PTSD, anxiety, or depression received psychotherapy in the year after their
           diagnosis. This reflects a 72% increase over the number of Veterans who received psychotherapy in 2004.
• Veterans are getting into care more quickly
        o The amount of time between receiving a diagnosis and starting psychotherapy decreased over the study period
• Veterans who receive psychotherapy are attending more sessions. 
        o Consistent with care recommendations, more Veterans are receiving at least 8 sessions of psychotherapy. 
        o Between 2004 and 2010, the number of Veterans receiving 8 or more psychotherapy sessions nearly doubled. 

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