Harvard Men's Health Watch

Tele-counseling aids depression treatment

For people who are battling depression, "talk therapy" can be very helpful. But due to the inconvenience, cost, and the time required, many people cut the treatment short. Now, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that delivering a form of counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) by telephone may keep people in treatment long enough for it to have an impact.

CBT teaches people to recognize and respond to negative thinking more effectively. In the study, 325 people were offered CBT. Half received 18 sessions of CBT by phone; the remainder received therapy in person. Researchers found that telephone CBT worked just as well as face-to-face meetings for reducing symptoms of depression. However, six months after the sessions ended, people who completed CBT in person were less depressed than those who obtained help by telephone.

Another important finding was that telemedicine allowed more people to complete their therapy. After 18 weeks, significantly fewer of the people in the telephone group (21%) had quit therapy compared to those treated in person (33%). For people with depression who can't or won't stick to months of meetings, telephone CBT could be helpful.

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