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New Study Finds Therapy for Depression over the Phone Helpful

Contributed by L.S. Webb, Community Engagement Manager for Walden Sierra

We have known for some time that therapy is a very effective tool for people struggling with depression.  We also know that people with a mental illness often delay getting help—the median length of delay to getting help was 10 years for those polled in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, published in 2005.

Hope for changing that statistic may be over the phone.  A new research study conducted at Northwestern University in Chicago, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicates that people with major depressive disorder who received psychotherapy over the phone were less likely to drop out of therapy than those receiving traditional face-to-face psychotherapy.  Phone therapy recipients also reported feeling better at six months after therapy ended than they felt when the phone therapy started.  However, those in the study who actually did come in to meet with their therapist reported greater gains in feeling less depressed than patients who received the phone therapy.

For people who are depressed facing barriers to therapy—due to schedule, location, language, accessibility, mobility, family or work schedules, therapist shortages or even stigma—phone therapy may be a positive alternative that helps people start, and stay, in therapy.    The earlier that intervention and care can occur the better, as this can often translate into a quicker progression to experiencing recovery.

Those with severe mental illness, however, may not find that phone therapy is a good fit.  As Dr. Gary Kennedy of Montefiore Medical Center in New York remarks in the CNN article on this topic (http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/05/phone-therapy-helps-with-depression/) “While it (phone therapy) may increase access to treatment, it will not be enough for the severe forms of mental illness in which psychosis, thoughts of suicide or crippling despair are prominent.”

Those experiencing depression and other behavioral health issues are not alone!  Visit the SAMHSA registry for information on where to go for help in the United States at http://www.samhsa.gov/ConsumerSurvivor/help.asp .  For those in Southern Maryland, you may also visit our website for more information about our programs at www.waldensierra.org.

Note:  No post of Walden Sierra (Walden Behavioral Health’s) Behavioral Health Blog is to be considered medical or therapeutic advice.