Counseling and Psychotherapy Skills Training for Family Physicians

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In many healthcare systems, family physicians are the primary source of direct care for patients with mental health problems in the community, yet family physicians are not often routinely or adequately trained to conduct counseling or psychotherapy. The current study conducted a 5-weekend year-long, hands-on, interactive, intensive training of family physicians in the skills of office-based counseling/psychotherapy. Fifty-five family physicians took the course over 4 different years. Outcomes were analyzed with 3 major measures and collected at baseline, the end of the course, and 6 months later. Based on an ability to answer a skill-testing questionnaire called the Carkhuff Discrimination Skills Index, all the family physician participants significantly improved their counseling skills by the end of the course and about half continued to improve 6 months later. Participants showed significant improvement in their confidence counseling individuals, couples, and families. Participants also indicated they significantly increased the time they spent in counseling individual patients as a result of the course. Implications for future research on primary care training programs in psychological therapy are discussed.