Racial and Ethnic Variation in Perceptions of VA Mental Health Providers are Associated with Treatment Retention among Veterans with PTSD

Michele Spoont, David Nelson, Michelle Van Ryn, Margarita Alegria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who seek mental health care in the Veterans Health Administration frequently discontinue treatment prematurely. Early discontinuation of mental health treatment is more common among Veterans with PTSD who are of minority race or ethnicity. Objectives: To determine whether retention in individual therapy or pharmacotherapy among Veterans with PTSD are associated with patients' ratings of their mental health providers, and if those associations differ depending on Veteran race or ethnicity. Research Design: Latino, African American, and white Veterans (n=2452) who participated in a prospective national cohort study of Veterans with PTSD at the beginning of an episode of care were surveyed immediately following Veterans' PTSD diagnoses and 6 months later. Pharmacy and mental health service utilization were abstracted from Veterans Health Administration administrative databases for 6 months postdiagnosis. Retention in treatments were modeled using logistic regression among Veterans who initiated individual therapy or pharmacotherapy. Demographics, treatment need, treatment-related beliefs, treatment process measures, and ratings of mental health providers were considered as predictors. Results: Ratings of mental health providers, more than treatment beliefs, were associated with treatment retention. Among African American Veterans, retention in pharmacotherapy was reduced if the provider was perceived as not having helped manage medication side-effects (odds ratio, 0.36; confidence interval, 0.16-0.80). All Latino Veterans but one (99% or n=64) who rated their therapist as not caring discontinued individual psychotherapy. Conclusions: Ratings of mental health providers were associated with treatment retention. The salience of specific provider behaviors to treatment retention varied by Veteran race or ethnicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S33-S42
JournalMedical care
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2017


  • mental health treatment
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • race and ethnicity
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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