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Telephone Therapy for Depression Almost as Good as in Person Counseling

Researchers at Brigham Young University say that receiving counseling over the phone seems almost as effective as in-person therapy for the treatment of depression.

Brigham Young University researchers compared the effectiveness of telephone counseling for major depression with traditional, in person counseling – and they say that telephone counseling seems to work almost as well.

30 study subjects recently diagnosed with major depression agreed to try telephone therapy as an alternative to conventional office based in-person therapy. These subjects received as many as 8 phone counseling sessions with a therapist, with calls lasting between 21 and 52 minutes in duration. None of the subjects had taken anti depressants for at least 6 months preceding the study, but all subjects were free to seek additional therapy of any kind after the onset of the study therapy.

After 6 months:

  • 42% of subjects said they were no longer depressed
  • 69% reported feeling very satisfied with their phone based therapeutic experience

The researchers say that therapy offered in person has a ‘recovery’ rate after 6 months of about 50%, and so the 42% recovery rate seen in this study is reasonably similar.

Lead researcher Professor Diane Spangler says that since telephone based therapy seems to work about as well as in person counseling, that "Offering a phone or webcam option for psychotherapy does appear warranted from an efficacy point of view. It's more user-friendly - no commutes, more flexibility of place and time - and has no side-effects."

The full study results can be read in the June edition of Behavior Therapy.

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