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Increasing Access to Care Through Innovation

April 20, 2014 Print

Kathryn McHugh, PhD, is determined to increase access to quality mental health care for people in need. Through her research to improve the effectiveness of behavioral therapies and innovative treatment delivery models, such as computer-based treatments, she hopes to address the public health crisis of untreated mental illness across the United States.

R. Kathryn McHugh, PhD
Kathryn McHugh, PhD

“I have seen how effective behavioral therapy can be and how it can transform a person’s life,” said McHugh, associate psychologist in the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. “When I started diving deeper into public health statistics, and speaking with people who struggled to access effective care, I realized that effective treatment was not readily available to the vast majority of those who need it.”

Upon joining McLean, McHugh set out to identify methods that would bring much-needed behavioral therapy to a larger audience by developing and testing behavioral treatments that may be more easily disseminated, while also being actively involved in training providers to better identify and treat mental illness.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, McHugh and her colleagues reported that 75 percent of patients interviewed preferred psychological talk therapy to medications for the treatment of anxiety and depression.

“People reported that they would prefer psychological or talk therapy at a rate of 3-to-1,” said McHugh. “Studies like these are important—improving the availability of evidence-based treatments that are in line with patient preferences will likely lead to both more accessible and more effective mental health care.”