Psychotherapy claims surrounding pharmacotherapy initiation in children and adolescents with anxiety disorders

Greta A. Bushnell, Stacie B. Dusetzina, Scott N. Compton, Bradley N. Gaynes, M. Alan Brookhart, Til Stürmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: Psychotherapy is an effective, recommended treatment for pediatric anxiety disorders. Nevertheless, individuals with mental health conditions often do not receive psychotherapy, with variation across provider types. This study sought to examine psychotherapy claims surrounding medication initiation in U.S. children with diagnosed anxiety disorders. Methods: The study cohort included privately insured children (3-17 years) with a diagnosed anxiety disorder initiating a medication to treat anxiety from 2004 to 2014. We examined psychotherapy claims in the 3 months before and 3 months after medication initiation and described children with multiple (2+) psychotherapy claims per 3-month period. Results: Of the 75,024 children initiating a medication for anxiety (median age = 14 years, 58% female), 35% had multiple psychotherapy claims before medication initiation, with variation by age, anxiety disorder, and psychiatric comorbidity and with little change across time. Psychotherapy claims after medication initiation varied by whether the child had prior psychotherapy: 80% in children with prior psychotherapy and 30% in children without prior psychotherapy claims (44% of children diagnosed by a psychiatrist, 21% of children diagnosed by a pediatrician). Conclusion: Many privately insured children do not have claims for psychotherapy before or after pharmacotherapy initiation for anxiety. Findings can inform future research and efforts to ultimately increase appropriate psychotherapy utilization in children with anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-106
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


  • adolescent
  • anxiety disorder
  • child
  • pharmacotherapy
  • psychotherapy


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