Billing and coding

How to use CPT code 90832

Text on an blue background: Billing CPT code 90834

If your client demonstrates a clinical need for shorter therapy sessions — or you need to end a session earlier than planned — 90832 might be the right way to bill.

CPT code 90834 description

Code 90832 represents a 30-minute session of psychotherapy (i.e. talk therapy), with between 16 and 37 minutes of documented face-to-face time.

Because therapists typically schedule their sessions for longer than 30 minutes, this code traditionally isn’t used as often as codes for 45- and 60-minute sessions. Although it has become more popular in the telemedicine age.

This is is how the American Medical Association defines 90832 in the official CPT codebook:

Psychotherapy, 30 minutes with patient

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

The psychotherapy service codes include ongoing assessment and adjustment of psychotherapeutic interventions, and may include involvement of informants in the treatment process. These codes describe psychotherapy for the individual patient, although times are for face-to-face services with patient and may include informant(s). The patient must be present for all or a majority of the service.

Your documentation for this code should include all the standard elements of a progress note, including:

  • Session details: Including start and stop times, and the date and place of service
  • Person-centered details
  • Patient-centered observations
  • Progress towards clearly-defined goals and/or objectives
  • Risk assessment
  • Clinical path forward

It’s important to use the code that most accurately reflects the time you spent with the patient to treat their condition, and ensure that documentation for the session supports the chosen code. 

CPT code 90832 time frame

The 90832 code is directly associated with a length of time: As the “30 minute” code, any session billed with 90832 should last between 16 and 37 minutes in duration, as documented by the start and stop times in your progress notes. 

The time requirement of the 90832 code should reflect only the face-to-face time spent on therapy, not any of the administrative work related to the session, like writing notes, scheduling future sessions, or collecting payment.

CPT code 90832 reimbursement rates

Reimbursement rates for sessions billed with 90832 will vary depending on the plan, your contract, your location, and your license type.

Find out your rates with Headway

What’s the difference between 90837, 90834, and 90832?

90837, 90834, and 90832 are three different time-based codes for psychotherapy sessions with individuals. The only difference is the amount of time that was required to address the client’s presenting symptoms.

  • 90837: Psychotherapy, 60 minutes with patient (53+ minutes of documented face-to-face time) 
  • 90834: Psychotherapy, 45 minutes with patient (38-52 minutes of documented face to face time)
  • 90832: Psychotherapy, 30 minutes with patient (16-37 minutes of documented face to face time)

How to code psychotherapy with medical services: 90833 vs. 90832

If you’re a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner administering medical services along with psychotherapy (such as prescribing medication), instead of a 90832, you should use the appropriate evaluation and management code (E/M) based on medical decision making criteria, plus a psychotherapy add-on code such as 90833 (representing 16–37 minutes of psychotherapy).

This document is intended for educational purposes only. It is designed to facilitate compliance with payer requirements and applicable law, but please note that the applicable laws and requirements vary from payer to payer and state to state. Please check with your legal counsel or state licensing board for specific requirements.

Headway is a free service that makes it easier and more profitable for therapists and psychiatrists to accept insurance.

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Billing and coding

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