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What is the PHQ-9?

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Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions among adults. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) completed a 2018 study that found approximately 17.3 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year.

That’s about 7% of U.S. adults.

But how do you know if you are depressed or just feeling the blues?

With SonderMind, you’ll be given several tools to measure and track your symptoms over time. The PHQ-9 is one of those tools. 

In this article, we’ll explain what the PHQ-9 is and how your therapist can use it to diagnose depression and evaluate your symptoms. 

So what is the PHQ-9? 

The PHQ-9 is a clinical questionnaire (CQ), or survey, that stands for ‘Patient Health Questionnaire.’ It helps your therapist screen for symptoms of depression. The survey asks questions about your function and mood, such as your interest in doing things, your energy and appetite levels, and your ability to concentrate.

Over time, your therapist will be able to better understand the frequency, intensity, and impact of symptoms you might be experiencing. 

The PHQ-9 is scored on a 27 point scale, ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms: 

  • 0-4: no notable depressive symptoms
  • 5-9: mild depressive symptoms
  • 10-14: moderate depressive symptoms
  • 15-19: moderately severe depressive symptoms
  • 20+: severe depressive symptoms

What will my therapist do with my PHQ-9 score?

Depending on your score, your therapist may: 

  • Discuss changes in your symptoms
  • Adjust your treatment plan (such as the frequency of your therapy appointments)
  • Recommend additional treatment if appropriate 
  • Provide new resources (like worksheets or breathing exercises)

Only licensed professionals (like your therapist or doctor) should evaluate your results and provide details on the next steps of your treatment plan. 

Is the PHQ-9 reliable?

Yes, the PHQ-9 is a widely used and well-researched tool to assess symptoms of depression.

The PHQ-9 can help you facilitate honest conversations with your therapist. Research shows that when people can talk openly with their therapist, they feel better and actually get better, faster. 

For more information, visit these additional resources:

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself, do not use this site. Call 911 or use one of these emergency resources.

Last Updated:
Published:
First Published:
October 15, 2021

Sources:

Brown J.,  Chalk M. B., Duncan B. L., Miller, S., Sorrel R. (2006). Using Formal Client Feedback to Improve Retention and Outcome: Making Ongoing, Real-time Assessment Feasible. Journal of Brief Therapy, 5–22. https://www.scottdmiller.com/wp-content/uploads/1%20Using%20Formal%20Client%20Feedback.pdf  

Kroenke K., Spitzer, R. L., & Williams J. (2001). Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.phqscreeners.com 

National Institute of Mental Health. (2019, October). Major Depression. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression

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