Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 28, Issue 11, pp 1430–1439

Primary Care Clinicians’ Recognition and Management of Depression: A Model of Depression Care in Real-World Primary Care Practice

  • Seong-Yi Baik
  • Benjamin F. Crabtree
  • Junius J. Gonzales
Original Research



Depression is prevalent in primary care (PC) practices and poses a considerable public health burden in the United States. Despite nearly four decades of efforts to improve depression care quality in PC practices, a gap remains between desired treatment outcomes and the reality of how depression care is delivered.


This article presents a real-world PC practice model of depression care, elucidating the processes and their influencing conditions.


Grounded theory methodology was used for the data collection and analysis to develop a depression care model. Data were collected from 70 individual interviews (60 to 70 min each), three focus group interviews (n = 24, 2 h each), two surveys per clinician, and investigators’ field notes on practice environments. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed for analysis. Surveys and field notes complemented interview data.


Seventy primary care clinicians from 52 PC offices in the Midwest: 28 general internists, 28 family physicians, and 14 nurse practitioners.


A depression care model was developed that illustrates how real-world conditions infuse complexity into each step of the depression care process. Depression care in PC settings is mediated through clinicians’ interactions with patients, practice, and the local community. A clinician’s interactional familiarity (“familiarity capital”) was a powerful facilitator for depression care. For the recognition of depression, three previously reported processes and three conditions were confirmed. For the management of depression, 13 processes and 11 conditions were identified. Empowering the patient was a parallel process to the management of depression.


The clinician’s ability to develop and utilize interactional relationships and resources needed to recognize and treat a person with depression is key to depression care in primary care settings. The interactional context of depression care makes empowering the patient central to depression care delivery.


depression primary care health services research model theory qualitative research interaction 

Supplementary material

11606_2013_2468_MOESM1_ESM.doc (70 kb)
ESM 1(DOC 70 kb)
11606_2013_2468_MOESM2_ESM.doc (84 kb)
ESM 2(DOC 83 kb)

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seong-Yi Baik
    • 1
  • Benjamin F. Crabtree
    • 2
  • Junius J. Gonzales
    • 3
  1. 1.University of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.University of Texas-El PasoEl PasoUSA

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