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J Fam Pract. 1995 Apr;40(4):352-7.

Primary care physician use of cognitive behavioral techniques with depressed patients.

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Mental Health Service, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.



Although researchers are paying more attention to the treatment of depression in the primary care setting, little is known about the nature of psychotherapeutic interactions that occur between primary care physicians and their patients in the context of a visit for depression. In recent years, brief cognitive behavioral therapy has been demonstrated to be efficacious, and the public has become more familiar with these techniques through media exposure and self-help books.


Depressed primary care patients were surveyed regarding the extent to which cognitive behavioral (CB) techniques were suggested during the primary care visit in which antidepressant medication was initially prescribed. One hundred fifty-five patients completed responses to phone surveys 1 month and 4 months after the visit. Patients were also surveyed regarding the recommendation of counseling by the primary care physician.


The majority of patients (61%) reported that their physician advised them to identify activities they were already doing that helped them feel better. Physician recommendations regarding planning pleasurable activities, problem solving, challenging depressive thoughts, and planning activities that boost confidence were reported by 22% to 40% of study patients. Older patients reported fewer interactions about CB strategies. Primary care physicians' suggestion of CB strategies was associated with both patient use of CB strategies in the months following the visit and better adherence to recommended medication therapy during the first month of treatment.


Many patients seem to recognize the occurrence of psychotherapeutic interactions during visits to their primary care physician in which an antidepressant medication was prescribed, and patients' recognition of these interactions is associated with increased adherence to the recommended course of antidepressant prescriptions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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