Patterns of Practice in Community Mental Health Treatment of Adult Depression

Psychother Res. 2019 Jan;29(1):70-77. doi: 10.1080/10503307.2017.1303210. Epub 2017 Mar 22.


Objective: Community mental health therapists often endorse an eclectic orientation, but few studies reveal how therapists utilize elements of evidence-based psychotherapies. This study aimed to characterize treatment as usual patterns of practice among therapists treating depressed adults in community mental health settings.

Method: Therapists (N = 165) from the USA's largest not-for-profit provider of community-based mental health services completed surveys assessing their demographics and practice element use with depressed adult clients. Specifically, therapists indicated whether they utilized each of 45 unique practice elements from the following evidence-based psychotherapies: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Behavioral Activation, Brief Psychodynamic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy, Mindfulness-Based CBT, Problem-Solving Therapy, and Self-Control Therapy. Principal component analysis was employed to identify practice patterns.

Results: The principal component analysis included 31 practice elements and revealed a three-factor model with distinct patterns of practice that did not align with traditional evidence-based practice approaches, including: (i) Planning, Practice, and Monitoring; (ii) Cognitive, Didactic, and Interpersonal; and (iii) Between Session Activities.

Conclusions: Therapist-reported practice patterns confirmed an eclectic approach that brought together elements from theoretically distinct evidence-based psychotherapies. Future research is needed to explore how these patterns of practice relate to client outcomes to inform focused training and/or de-implementation efforts.

Keywords: community mental health; depression; practice elements; treatment as usual.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Mental Health Services / methods
  • Community Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Evidence-Based Practice / methods
  • Evidence-Based Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Psychotherapy / statistics & numerical data*