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Hold the phone -- a new study suggests phone therapy could lessen depression symptoms

May 10, 2010 |  6:56 pm

One-on-one talk therapy isn't the only option for psychological counseling. More people are opting for doing sessions by phone, and some studies have shown good results. A new study finds that phone psychotherapy for adults with major depression may be effective, reducing the severity of symptoms and even helping them to recover.

L07jiqnc The study focused on 30 men and women age 18 to 65 who had not seen a psychotherapist in the last month, were not bipolar and did not have a psychotic disorder, and had not been on antidepressants in the last six months. After enrolling, the participants could seek any other kind of treatment during the study.

More than three-fourths of the group had at least eight phone sessions with a therapist, and 90% had at least four sessions. Researchers evaluated the study subjects at three and six months to see if depression symptoms had changed.

From the beginning of the study to three months, symptom severity had, on average, gone from severe-moderate to moderate-mild. Symptoms lessened more from three to six months, but the change was not as dramatic. At the end of the study, 42% of people were considered cured, and 69% were very satisfied with their treatment. No significant differences were seen among those who took or didn't take antidepressants while receiving the counseling.

"Offering a phone or webcam option for psychotherapy does appear warranted from an efficacy point of view," said Diane Spangler, co-author of the study, in a news release. The Brigham Young University psychology professor added, "It's more user-friendly -- no commutes, more flexibility of place and time -- and has no side effects."

The study appears in the June issue of the journal Behavior Therapy.

Photo credit: Paul Sancya / Associated Press