Talk therapy: phone it in!


New research shows that people do not stick with face-to-face therapy as readily as they do telephone-administered talk therapy. For people with major depression, there is a lower dropout rate for telephone cognitive behavioral therapy when compared to the face-to-face variety. The researchers also believe that telephone therapy is just as effective at improving symptoms.

Researchers do point out however, that the beneficial effects of therapy appear to last longer for people who used face-to-face talk therapy. This was noted at a six month follow up.

“Psychotherapy is effective at treating depression, and most primary care patients prefer psychotherapy to antidepressant medication. When referred for psychotherapy, however, only a small percentage of patients follow through. Attrition from psychotherapy in randomized controlled trials is often 30% or greater and can exceed 50% in clinical practice,” wrote the authors wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Therefore, telephone service has been investigated as an alternative. Transportation and proximity challenges are eliminated with phone treatment.

Researchers compared face-to-face and phone treatment. They found that 21% of phone patients dropped out compared to 33% in the other group. Within the first five weeks, 4% of the phone patients dropped out versus 13% of the face-to-face patients. Telephone patients were considerably more attendant to their sessions.

“The effect of telephone administration on adherence appears to occur during the initial engagement period. These effects may be due to the capacity of telephone delivery to overcome barriers and patient ambivalence toward treatment,” according to researchers.

Source: JAMA, MedicalNewsToday


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