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Phone Therapy May Be Very Effective To Treat Depression


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Telephone consultation and psychotherapy may be just as effective as in-person treatment of clinical depression in adults, a new Brigham Young University (BYU) study has found.

According to the new findings, individuals who have been diagnosed with major depression may greatly benefit from the therapy over the phone instead of scheduling eight visits to the clinic. According to DepressionStatistics.org., approximately 10 per cent of individuals aged 18 years and up in the United States suffer from depressive symptoms. The experts claim that phone therapy could reduce the severity of depression symptoms in many people and even help them to recover.

Scientists from Brigham Young University carried out a trial run, which included 30 male and female participants with the ages between 18 and 65 years who have newly been diagnosed with major depression. None of the participants had visited a psychotherapist in the previous month and none of them received any antidepressant drugs.

Instead of a number of scheduled visits to the clinic, all the subjects covered the same program during a series of telephone consultations with the therapist. The length of conversations was between 21 and 52 minutes. During the trial, more than three-fourths of the volunteers had at least eight phone sessions with a professional, and 90 per cent had at least four consultations. The investigators assessed the patients at three and six months into the study in order to notice any changes in their depression symptoms.

The results revealed that six month after the start of an experiment, 42 per cent of the patients had completely recovered from clinical depression. The experts noted that similar therapy conducted during face-to-face consultations has a 50 per cent recovery rate. Diane Spangler, a psychology professor at the Brigham Young University and co-author of the research, said that offering patients an opportunity to talk to a professional through the phone or webcam, "does appear warranted from an efficacy point of view." Dr. Spangler added that this kind of therapy proved to be more flexible of place and time, and has no side effects.

The experts acknowledged the fact that phone counseling may not be suitable and effective for everyone. Several participants in trial rejected the opportunity of treatment through the phone, preferring to talk to the specialist in person. However, researchers say that for those who are quite comfortable with phone calls, this type of psychotherapy could be a cheaper and much more convenient option.

While the new research was small, the professors referred to a previous trial on antidepressant medications that also involved a telephone counseling component. In that study, the added benefit from telephone therapy matched the results that were achieved in this last trial.

The study is published in the June, 2010 issue of the journal Behavioral Therapy.

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