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. 2014 Sep;42(3):423-57.
doi: 10.1521/pdps.2014.42.3.423.

The Cost-Effectiveness of Psychotherapy for the Major Psychiatric Diagnoses


The Cost-Effectiveness of Psychotherapy for the Major Psychiatric Diagnoses

Susan G Lazar. Psychodyn Psychiatry. .


Psychotherapy is an effective and often highly cost-effective medical intervention for many serious psychiatric conditions. Psychotherapy can also lead to savings in other medical and societal costs. It is at times the firstline and most important treatment and at other times augments the efficacy of psychotropic medication. Many patients are in need of more prolonged and intensive psychotherapy, including those with personality disorders and those with chronic complex psychiatric conditions often with severe anxiety and depression. Many patients with serious and complex psychiatric illness have experienced severe early life trauma in an atmosphere in which family members or caretakers themselves have serious psychiatric disorders. Children and adolescents with learning disabilities and those with severe psychiatric disorders can also require more than brief treatment. Other diagnostic groups for whom psychotherapy is effective and cost-effective include patients with schizophrenia, anxiety disorders (including posttraumatic stress disorder), depression, and substance abuse. In addition, psychotherapy for the medically ill with concomitant psychiatric illness often lowers medical costs, improves recovery from medical illness, and at times even prolongs life compared to similar patients not given psychotherapy. While "cost-effective" treatments can yield savings in healthcare costs, disability claims, and other societal costs, "cost-effective" by no means translates to "cheap" but instead describes treatments that are clinically effective and provided at a cost that is considered reasonable given the benefit they provide, even if the treatments increase direct expenses. In the current insurance climate in which Mental Health Parity is the law, insurers nonetheless often use their own non-research and non-clinically based medical necessity guidelines to subvert it and limit access to appropriate psychotherapeutic treatments. Many patients, especially those who need extended and intensive psychotherapy, are at risk of receiving substandard care due to inadequate insurance reimbursement. These patients remain vulnerable to residual illness and the concomitant sequelae in lost productivity, dysfunctional interpersonal and family relationships, comorbidity including increased medical and surgical services, and increased mortality.

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