An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports on results of a study of 325 depressed primary care patients in the Chicago area. According to the study, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered through a phone conversation is just as effective as face-to-face counseling in the office. The advantage of phone therapy, though, is that it boosts adherence rates to treatment.
Estimates are that 25% of primary care patients suffer from depression. Yet, many patients don’t continue with office-based therapy once they start it, due to time constraints and transportation problems with ongoing visits to the office. The advantage of telephone-based therapy was demonstrated in this 18-week study by its 21% discontinuation rate versus a 33% discontinuation rate for in-office counseling.
Nonetheless, face-to-face therapy seems to produce a greater degree of improvement over the long-term than telephone-based therapy, even with its lower compliance to therapy. The conclusion from this study seems to be that direct contact with office staff is desirable in CBT for depression, but long-intervals of phone-therapy are effective as a substitute and will keep more patients engaged in therapy.
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