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Phone-Based Therapy Eases Long-Term Depression

Study finds patients report satisfaction, better adherence to meds

THURSDAY, March 22, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Phone-based counseling can provide long-term benefits to people with depression, according to a new U.S. study.

The study, published in the April issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, found that when patients received brief telephone-based psychotherapy soon after they started taking antidepressants, strong positive effects -- such as improvements in their depression symptoms and satisfaction with their care -- continued for up to 18 months after the first telephone consult.

"With close to 400 patients, this is the largest study yet of psychotherapy delivered over the telephone. It's also the first to study the effectiveness of combining phone-based therapy with antidepressant drug treatment as provided in everyday medical practice," lead author Evette J. Ludman, a senior research associate at Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, said in a prepared statement.

During the phone sessions, therapists encouraged patients to identify and counter their negative thoughts (cognitive behavioral therapy), to pursue activities they had enjoyed in the past (behavioral activation), and to develop a plan to care for themselves.

At 18 months after the first session, 77 percent of the patients who received phone-based therapy reported that their depression was "much" or "very much" improved, compared with 63 percent of patients who received regular care.

The positive effects of the phone therapy were more pronounced in patients with moderate to severe depression than in those with mild depression.

The study also found that patients who received phone-based therapy had slightly better adherence in taking their antidepressant medications, but that did not account for most of their improvement, the researchers said.

They plan further research, including a comparison of phone-based and in-person counseling.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about depression.

SOURCE: Group Health Center for Health Studies, news release, March 22, 2007
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