Mental health visits to complementary and alternative medicine providers

Gregory E. Simon, Daniel C. Cherkin, Karen J. Sherman, David M. Eisenberg, Richard A. Deyo, Roger B. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to examine the characteristics of mental health visits to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) providers. A representative sample of acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and naturopathic physicians in four states reported on 8933 consecutive visits, including demographic characteristics; presenting complaints; referral source; treatments provided; disposition; and other sources of care for the presenting problem. The proportion of visits for a mental health complaint ranged from 7% to 11% for acupuncture, massage, and naturopathic physicians to less than 1% for chiropractors. For acupuncturists, massage therapists, and naturopaths, 69-87% of patients making mental health visits were self-referred. The CAM provider discussed care with a conventional medical provider in 6-20% of cases and was aware of concomitant conventional medical care in an additional 10-30%. Only 1-5% were subsequently referred to conventional providers. For acupuncturists, massage therapists, and naturopaths, the proportion of visits for mental health concerns is similar to that in conventional primary care. Mental health visits to chiropractors are much less common, but this may reflect differences in true prevalence or differences in presentation. Among those seeking CAM care for mental disorders, concomitant treatment by conventional medical providers is common, but communication or coordination of care is rare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-177
Number of pages7
JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by grants from the Group Health Foundation, Grants #HS09565 and #HS08194 from the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research and Grant #AR43441-04S1 from the National Institutes of Health. In kind support was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Alternative medicine
  • Complementary
  • Epidemiology
  • Mental health
  • Utilization


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