Depression Therapy by Phone May Work
Lasting Improvement Seen in 18-Month Study
March 22, 2007 -- Getting depression therapy by phone may have lasting
benefits, a new study shows.
The study included 393 moderately depressed adults who had just started
Participants who got 10-12 phone therapy sessions over a year, in addition
to standard depression care, showed a greater improvement in depression
symptoms than those who only got standard depression care with no phone
Those benefits lasted at least six months after the last phone therapy
The findings appear in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Depression Therapy Study's Details
The study included depression patients enrolled in Group Health Cooperative,
a Seattle-area health maintenance organization (HMO). They were about 44 years
old, on average; most were white women.
The patients were split into two groups. One group got depression therapy by
phone for a year, in addition to standard depression treatment. The other group
got standard depression care without phone therapy.
Patients in the phone therapy group got 10-12 sessions of cognitive
behavioral therapy over the course of a year from specially trained counselors
with master's degrees in psychology.
The patients and counselors never met in person. The counselors called the
patients to set up the phone therapy appointments. Patients in both groups were
allowed to get in-person counseling, but few did so.
Depression Therapy Phone Sessions
The phone therapy sessions were designed to help patients defuse negative
thoughts, cultivate pleasant and rewarding activities, and manage their
The researchers -- who work for Group Health Cooperative -- interviewed all
patients in both groups periodically over a year and a half to gauge their
The follow-up period ended six months after the phone therapy sessions
ended. Even so, patients in the phone therapy group reported a greater
improvement in their depression symptoms, compared with those in the standard
care group, at the end of the follow-up period.
Those findings follow an earlier report from the researchers showing greater
short-term improvement in depression symptoms with phone therapy.
Benefits Lasted After Therapy Ended
"We were surprised at how well the positive effects were maintained over
time," researcher Everette Ludman, PhD, says in a Group Health Cooperative
Ludman is a senior research associate with the Group Health Center for
Patients in the phone therapy group were more likely to take their
antidepressants. But that didn't completely explain the benefits seen in the
phone therapy group, note the researchers.
The study doesn't show what aspects of the phone therapy sessions were most
Ludman and colleagues aren't suggesting phone therapy as a substitute for
other depression treatment.
But the researchers say adding phone therapy to depression treatment could
help some patients, especially since many patients don’t get in-person