New Therapy on Depression Finds Phone Is Effective
Published: August 25, 2004
In a large-scale, 18-month study, doctors in Seattle found that they could significantly increase recovery rates for patients taking antidepressants by providing several 30- to 40-minute counseling sessions over the phone.
The Seattle study is the first to test the effect of a standardized form of counseling, cognitive behavior therapy, delivered entirely over the phone.
"It's thrilling to see these kinds of results," said Dr. Jeanne Miranda, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.
The Seattle researchers focused on patients who sought treatment and were motivated enough to begin taking drugs.
Dr. Jürgen Unützer, a psychiatrist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study, said that only about a quarter of all Americans suffering from the illness try drug therapy each year.
The rest do not, because of lack of awareness, access or interest, psychiatrists say, and many people with depression are wary of taking mood-altering drugs.
But because 40 percent of the people who begin antidepressant therapy quit within the first month, doctors should consider the telephone a powerful ally, said the study's lead author, Dr. Gregory E. Simon, a psychiatrist at the Group Health Cooperative, a 500,000-member health plan in Washington.
The researchers followed 600 men and women receiving antidepressant treatment at Group Health clinics.