Help is a call Away

A simple phone call could be all it takes to help depressed patients reduce their symptoms.

Researchers from Group Health Cooperative’s Center for Health Studies in Seattle studied 600 depressed patients. They tested two telephone approaches to treat the patients. The first approach focused on improving the quality of drug management. The second approach did the same but also added eight sessions of structured psychotherapy conducted over the telephone. Each psychotherapy session lasted between 30 minutes and 40 minutes.

Results show both approaches were effective in reducing symptoms of depression. Those who participated in the telephone psychotherapy treatment approach reported an 80-percent improvement in symptoms. Patients who underwent the drug management program alone reported a 66-percent improvement in symptoms. In contrast, those who underwent usual care reported only a 55-percent improvement.

Researchers say their findings are important because they offer depressed patients another avenue for treatment. They say: “Vigorous telephone outreach allowed us to engage patients who might not be reached by traditional in-person treatment. Telephone sessions eliminated travel and waiting time and allowed more flexible scheduling. Greater privacy of telephone contacts helped to circumvent stigma.”

Researchers say both antidepressant drugs and structured psychotherapy are effective treatments for depressed patients, but less than one-third of people with depression receive effective treatment.

Authors of the study conclude, “Our findings demonstrate the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of a telephone-based program including medication monitoring, care coordination, and structured, depression-specific psychotherapy. These findings suggest the need for a public health approach to psychotherapy emphasizing persistent outreach and vigorous interventions to improve access to and motivation for treatment.”

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