Group Therapy Will be Key for Mental Health Access in the Post-Covid World
CINCINNATI, Aug. 3, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The American Group Psychotherapy Association announces the publication of a new analysis suggesting a change in the national strategy for delivery of mental health services is needed.
Group therapy could help 3.3 million more people and save over $5.6 billion in mental health care costs says new study
According to the White House (FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Highlights Strategy to Address the National Mental Health Crisis | The White House), the USA is currently in the midst of an unprecedented mental health crisis (The State of Mental Health in America | Mental Health America (mhanational.org); Mental Health in America: A Growing Crisis (psychiatrictimes.com), with a drastic increase in demand for services while there is a workforce shortage in terms of availability of therapists to meet that demand. Mental health networks are also described as “ghost networks” by legislators, with up to 80% of therapists on provider networks unavailable due to full wait lists or no longer being in practice (Congress urged to tackle ‘ghost networks’ amid mental health crisis | The Hill.)
A new analysis published in the leading American Psychological Association journal, American Psychologist shows that if 10% of the unmet need for psychotherapy in the US was met with group therapy and not individual therapy:
- 3.3 million more people would be served, providing significantly improved access to mental health treatment.
- The need to add new therapists to the workforce (currently at 34,473 additional therapists) would be reduced.
- Savings of over $5.6 billion in mental health care costs would be realized (Whittingham, Mallow, Marmarosh & Scherer, 2023).
Full citation: Whittingham, M., Marmarosh, C. L., Mallow, P., & Scherer, M. (2023). Mental health care equity and access: A group therapy solution. American Psychologist, 78(2), 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0001078
Martyn Whittingham, Ph.D., CGP, Cheri Marmarosh, Ph.D., CGP, Pete Mallow, PhD. And Michael Scherer, Ph.D. are a research team who have been investigating the utilization and reimbursement of individual and group therapy across third-party payers. They modelled the impact of changing the way psychotherapy is delivered nationally.
Their analysis states that group therapy is underutilized by private practice. When looking at how individual and group therapy are used nationwide under third-party payment, only 2% of services in private practice are group therapy (most group therapy takes place in inpatient and structured outpatient agency settings like substance abuse clinics or hospitals, which is typically for clients whose conditions have become more chronic and /or severe). This leads to bottlenecks of care, as private therapists have full caseloads and become unable to take on new clients when their needs are less severe and can be managed in an outpatient setting.
Group therapy is considered a Triple E treatment (Burlingame, 2022) – effective, efficient and equivalent to individual therapy. In clinical trials, it has proven effective in treating a wide range of conditions, ranging from depression and anxiety to pain management and schizophrenia.
Increasing the use of group therapy, while also incentivizing training in group therapy (as this is not a required training in many doctoral programs) could be a major step in addressing the unmet need for therapy in the US population, as well as providing a blueprint for other countries in how to promote access to psychotherapy.
As Dr. Martyn Whittingham states, “The USA has the means to increase access to mental health treatment. We need to incentivize more groups in private practices and for psychologists and social workers to use them more in primary care physician offices, where people often turn to for help before problems become chronic and severe. We also need therapists to get more training in learning group theories and processes so that they will run effective, evidence-based groups. We can also ensure quality by using outcome assessment for both group and individual therapies.”
As Gary Burlingame, AGPA President, who has spent 25 years conducting meta-analyses researching the efficacy of group therapy stated, “We now have dozens of published meta-analyses summarizing hundreds of randomized controlled trials that support group therapy as a Triple E treatment – efficient, effective and equivalent to individual therapy—for the most common mental health challenges.”
Martyn Whittingham, PhD, CGP
Owner, Whittingham Psychological Services
The American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) is the foremost professional association dedicated to the field of group psychotherapy, operating through a tri-partite structure: AGPA, a professional and educational organization; the Group Foundation for Advancing Mental Health, its philanthropic arm; and the International Board for Certification of Group Psychotherapists, a standard setting and certifying body. AGPA represents over 2,000 mental health professional members including psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, as well as mental health, family, and pastoral counselors, many of whom have been recognized as specialists through the Certified Group Psychotherapist credential. Its members are experienced mental health professionals who lead psychotherapy groups and various non-clinical groups. Many are organizational specialists who work with businesses, not-for-profit organizations, communities and other “natural” groups to help them improve their functioning. The association also has 21 local and regional societies located across the country.
AGPA is committed to supporting the dignity and psychological safety of every individual without discrimination regarding race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sex, age, or disability. Central to our mission is a belief in the power of groups to treat mental illness, heal the scars from traumatic events, and enhance the well-being of adults and children in their families, schools, corporate settings, and communities.
About the International Board for Certification of Group Psychotherapists
The International Board for Certification of Group Psychotherapists is a standard setting and certifying body. This multidisciplinary credentialing body has over 1,500 certified clinicians, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, clinical mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, pastoral counselors and creative arts therapists who are recognized as group specialists through the Certified Group Psychotherapist credential.
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SOURCE AMERICAN GROUP PSYCHOTHERAPY ASSOCIATION
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