Phone therapy is often considered as a temporary alternative to in-person therapy — when a doctor or patient is traveling, for example, or in an emergency. But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that phone therapy alone can effectively treat depression.
The study included 325 participants who received 18 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy to treat depression. Some completed therapy in person, while others talked to their therapists over the phone.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, patients who were able to do their sessions over the phone were less likely to cancel. And both forms of therapy significantly reduced depression symptoms in the participants.
What's the catch? Well, phone therapy seems to be less effective in the long-run — after six months, researches followed up with the participants and found that those who had received in-person therapy were less depressed than those who had done it over the phone.
The author of the study, David Mohr, acknowledges the restrictions of phone therapy.
An integral part of cognitive behavioral therapy is assessing the actions of the patient during the session. Therapy done over the phone is often less effective because patient and therapist cannot pick up each other's visual cues.
At the same time, phone therapy may be the best alternative for patients suffering from depression who are having trouble keeping in person appointments.
The bottom line, really, is that the phone helps. But once you're feeling a little bit better, you should probably go in and talk to some directly. Also, if anyone ever offers you 18 weeks of free cognitive behavioral therapy to be part of a study, you jump on that.