These were the findings of David Mohr and colleagues at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June of this year. Mohr said, “One of the things we’ve found over the years is that it’s very difficult for people with depression to access psychotherapy.” The authors speculated that reducing time commitments, transportation problems and cost may play a role in the lower drop-out rate for phone therapy.
Around 25% of all primary care visits are with patients who have clinically significant depression, according to the authors. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for depression, but the drop-out rate is high.
Researchers in the randomized study had 325 people diagnosed with depression undergo 18 weeks of therapy, half by phone and half in person. The quality of the telephone therapy was calculated to be equivalent to in-person treatment. By the end of the period 53 participants had dropped out of face-to-face therapy compared with 34 in the phone therapy group.
Patients in both groups felt decreased levels of their depression, however six months later patients who met with their therapists in person tended to feel less depressed than those who had phone sessions, but the difference was very small.
“At this point these findings do suggest that psychotherapy for depression can be administered both safely and effectively over the phone. Providers can be comfortable doing that and insurers and payers should feel comfortable” reimbursing for it, Mohr said. Cognitive behavioral therapy by phone, “can overcome barriers to adhering to face-to-face treatment.”
This article was originally published in Pathways Physician & Health Professional Bulletin - Issue 25. To download this issue in PDF format, or past issues, visit our newsletter archives online at www.pathwayshealth.org/publications.