VHA Whole Health Services and Complementary and Integrative Health Therapies: a Gateway to Evidence-Based Mental Health Treatment

Bella Etingen*, Bridget M. Smith, Steven B. Zeliadt, Jenesse E. Kaitz, Anna M. Barker, Justeen K. Hyde, Gemmae M. Fix, David E. Reed, Ekaterina Anderson, Timothy P. Hogan, Barbara G. Bokhour

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Engagement in evidence-based psychotherapy (EBP) among veterans with behavioral health conditions is often low. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is implementing a “Whole Health (WH)” system of care, to identify veteran personal health goals, align care with those goals, and offer services designed to engage and empower veterans to achieve well-being. Objective: To examine the relationship between veteran WH utilization and subsequent engagement in EBP. Design: Retrospective analysis of VHA administrative records from 18 facilities implementing WH. Subjects: Veterans (n = 265,364) with a diagnosis of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and/or anxiety who had a mental healthcare encounter but no EBP use in fiscal year (FY) 2018. Among this cohort, 33,146 (12.5%) began using WH in FY2019. Main Measures: We examined use of an EBP for depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD within 1 year of the index date of WH use compared to use of an EBP anytime during FY2019 for veterans not identified as using WH. We used multiple logistic regression to examine the association between veteran WH use and EBP engagement. Key Results: Approximately 3.0% (n = 7,860) of the veterans in our overall cohort engaged in an EBP in the year following their index date. Controlling for key demographic, health, and utilization variables, WH users had 2.4 (95% CI: 2.2–2.5) times higher odds of engaging in an EBP the following year than those with no WH utilization. Associations between utilization of specific WH services (vs. no utilization of that service) and engagement in an EBP in the subsequent year ranged from 1.6 (95% CI: 1.0–2.6) to 3.5 (95% CI: 3.2–3.9) across the different types of WH services used. Conclusions: WH use was associated with increased engagement in EBPs among veterans with depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD. Future interventions intended to promote veteran engagement in EBPs may benefit from leveraging WH services and therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • complementary and integrative health
  • evidence-based psychotherapy
  • mental health
  • patient-centered care
  • veterans
  • whole health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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