Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental illness and other behavioral disturbances in which the physician or other qualified health professional, through definitive therapeutic communication, attempts to alleviate the emotional disturbances, reverse or change maladaptive patterns of behavior, and encourage personality growth and development.

Psychotherapy current procedural terminology (CPT©) codes 90832-90838 describe face to face encounters with patients and or family members that are performed either alone or performed along with medical evaluation and management (E/M) services. To report both E/M services as well as psychotherapy services by the same physician the two services must be separately identifiable. A separate diagnosis is not required for the reporting of E/M and psychotherapy on the same date of service.

Time is only counted as the time spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family member. When codes have sequential typical times attached to them, as with the basic psychotherapy codes, the code that is closest to the typical time should be selected.

A unit of time is attained when the halfway mark is passed. For example, if a patient is seen for more than 16 minutes you may code using 90832, the 30-minute code. If a patient is seen for 35 minutes, you would also use 90832 as it has not met the threshold of time for the next code. If the patient is seen for 40 minutes, you would use 90834 would be assigned.

ATC Coding for Individual Psychotherapy Services

1CPT 2014 Professional Edition, AMA 2013 Section: Psychotherapy pages 529-230.
2Ibid.
3American Psychiatric Association, Current Procedural Terminology Code Changes for 2013 Overview

This commentary is a summary prepared by McKesson's Business Performance Services division and highlights certain changes, not all changes, in 2014 CPT® codes relating to academic, office-based, and multi-specialty. This commentary does not supplant the American Medical Association's (AMA) current listing of CPT codes, its documentation in the annual CPT Changes publications, and other related publications from the AMA, which are the authoritative source for information about CPT codes. Please refer to your 2014 CPT Code Book, annual CPT Changes publication, HCPCS Book and Payer Bulletins for additional information, including additions, deletions, changes and interpretations that may not be reflected in this document.

CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association ("AMA"). The AMA is the owner of all copyright, trademark and other rights to CPT and its updates.

Author - Female

About the author

Myra Blankenship, CIRCC, CPC of Compliance-Radiology, McKesson Business Performance Services.