View Full Version : Phone Therapy A Lifeline For Sufferers Of Depression

08-01-05, 08:44 AM
Research Summary

June 15 (ABC7) Fifteen-million-Americans live with depression. For many the battle can be difficult. But some people are finding that help is just a phone call away.

REPORT: MB #2366

BACKGROUND: Gregory Simon, M.D., a psychiatrist from Group Health Cooperative in Seattle says most depressed patients are treated with antidepressants. In a recent study, he determined that these patients might get better care through phone therapy.

THE STUDY: Dr. Simon and colleagues studied 600 depressed patients. They tested two telephone approaches to treat the patients. The first approach focused on improving the quality of drug management. The second approach did the same but also added eight sessions of structured psychotherapy conducted over the telephone. Each psychotherapy session lasted between 30 minutes and 40 minutes. Results show both approaches were effective in reducing symptoms of depression. Those who participated in the telephone psychotherapy treatment approach reported an 80-percent improvement in symptoms. Patients who underwent the drug management program alone reported a 66-percent improvement in symptoms. In contrast, those who underwent usual care reported only a 55-percent improvement.

WHY PHONE THERAPY WORKS: Dr. Simon says oftentimes, patients will only attend a few therapy sessions and never return. The phone therapy program emphasized outreach, where therapists called patients repeatedly and did everything they could to keep them engaged. Initially, researchers thought people may be bothered by repetitious phone calls. Dr. Simon says most therapists believe that if people do not return to therapy sessions, they should be left alone. He says they approached the program differently, explaining, "Depression is defined by being hopeless and discouraged. People often drop out of treatment because they're depressed. That's the very problem that we're trying to help them with, so it was really critical to keep calling people. Our experience was that even people we had to call 20 and 30 times before we reached them were never upset about that." He says the response was always, " 'I was so overwhelmed; I couldn't even pick up the phone, but it really matters to me that you keep calling.'" Dr. Simon says phone contact is more conducive to a structured, step-by-step approach, which is likely to be more effective than an unstructured approach typical of standard in-person therapy sessions.

IMPLICATIONS: Researchers say their findings are important because they offer depressed patients another avenue for treatment. They say using the phone as a vehicle for therapy enables patients to receive therapy who might not be able to do so in-person. It eliminates travel and waiting time. Telephone therapy sessions also allow more flexible scheduling. Greater privacy via telephone helps reduce the stigma associated with depression and can encourage people to seek treatment who would not otherwise.

CONCLUSION: Researchers conclude, "Our findings demonstrate the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of a telephone-based program including medication monitoring, care coordination, and structured, depression-specific psychotherapy. These findings suggest the need for a public health approach to psychotherapy emphasizing persistent outreach and vigorous interventions to improve access to and motivation for treatment."

08-01-05, 10:57 AM
Makes pretty good sense to me. Wonder why shrinks hadn't thought of this sooner?