The mental health field is comprised of various disciplines that range greatly in cost and efficacy. But few studies have looked at how these different disciplines compare to each other with respect to overall large scale cost effectiveness and treatment viability. In an attempt to fill this void, D. Russell Crane, Ph.D., analyzed four years of mental health claims data from CIGNA healthcare. “The purpose of the study was to explore the practice patterns and subsequent cost-effectiveness of different types of professionals providing individual and family therapy within one behavioral health care management system,” said Crane, Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. The data included over 5 million claims specifically for psychotherapy services obtained by members ranging in age from birth to 103.
Crane’s study revealed several findings. First, the majority of claims filed were for mood (34%) and adjustment issues (36.2%), followed by PTSD and anxiety (12.2%). “In terms of outcome as measured by the success and recidivism rates, patients treated by MFTs had the highest success (86.6%) and lowest recidivism rates (13.4%) compared to the other mental health professions,” said Crane. “The next most effective professional group was nurses, with 85.8% success and 14.2% recidivism rates. The professional counselors’ patients experienced a success rate of 85.6% with 14.4% recidivism. Next were MDs, whose patients averaged 85.5% success and 14.5% recidivism rates. Finally were MSWs with 84.3% success and 15.7% recidivism and psychologists with 84.2% success and 15.8% recidivism rates.”
Additionally, the study revealed that family therapy, followed closely by individual therapy, had the lowest rates of recidivism. “Results demonstrate that overall, using family therapy exclusively was the most cost-effective form of psychotherapy.” Crane added, “It demonstrates that all disciplines provide successful and cost-effective treatments. The data also show that family therapy is a more cost-effective treatment modality than individual psychotherapy and should be included as a covered service in behavioral health plans.”
Crane, Russell D., and Scott H. Payne. “INDIVIDUAL VERSUS FAMILY PSYCHOTHERAPY IN MANAGED CARE: COMPARING THE COSTS OF TREATMENT BY THE MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONS.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 37.3 (2011): 273-89. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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