Article

International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 69-76

Interest and Use of Mental Health and Specialty Behavioral Medicine Counseling in US Primary Care Patients

  • Kelly G. BaronAffiliated withDepartment of Neurologyy, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University Email author 
  • , Emily LattieAffiliated withDepartment of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
  • , Joyce HoAffiliated withDepartment of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
  • , David C. MohrAffiliated withDepartment of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

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Abstract

Background

Counseling interventions have the potential to improve health and quality of life for primary care patients, but there are few studies describing the interest in and utilization of counseling among this patient population in the USA.

Purpose

The purpose of the study was to evaluate interest in mental health and specialty behavioral medicine counseling and predictors of utilization over 1 year among US primary care patients.

Method

Participants in this two-survey longitudinal study included 658 primary care patients in an urban US academic medical center (461 females, age M = 51.05, SD = 15.46 years). Retention rate was 61.2% at survey 2. Patient demographics, depression, anxiety, and interest in counseling services were assessed through a survey mailed 1 week following an outpatient appointment. Respondents to survey 1 were re-contacted 1 year later to assess. Interest and use of the following counseling services were evaluated in the relevant subgroups: mental health (the entire sample and patients with elevated anxiety and/or depression), health/lifestyle (overweight and obese participants), smoking cessation (current and occasional smokers), and pain management (participants with elevated daily pain ratings).

Results

At survey 1, 45.7% of the sample reported interest in mental health counseling, and 58.9% of the sample reported interest in behavioral medicine counseling. Among overweight or obese participants, 59.9% were interested in health/lifestyle counseling. Among smokers, 55.3% were interested in smoking cessation, and among participants with chronic pain, 33.8% were interest in pain management. Rates of utilization of services at survey 2 were 21.3% for mental health, 7.7% for health/lifestyle, 6.7% for smoking cessation, and 6.6% for pain management. Interest in receiving services at survey 1 was the strongest predictor of utilization.

Conclusion

Results demonstrate high interest but low utilization over 1 year among US primary care patients. Identifying patients interested in counseling services and reducing barriers may help facilitate receipt of services for those with interest and need for behavioral treatments.

Keywords

Counseling Behavioral medicine Primary care Obesity Chronic pain Smoking cessation