People with depression are more likely to stick to therapy sessions over phone than face-to face settings, says a new study. However, face-to face sessions might be more effective on a long-term basis.
"The effect of telephone administration on adherence appears to occur during the initial engagement period. These effects may be due to the capacity of telephone delivery to overcome barriers and patient ambivalence toward treatment," the authors write in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Access barriers likely exert their effects early in treatment, and thus the effect of the telephone on overcoming those barriers is most prominent in the first sessions."
The study included more than 300 people who were diagnosed with major depressive disorder. These people were assigned to either face-to-face cognitive behavior therapy or telephone-based cognitive behavior therapy.
After 18 months of therapy, people who had face-to-face sessions dropped out more often than people who had these sessions over phone.
"The telephone offers the opportunity to extend care to populations that are difficult to reach, such as rural populations, patients with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and individuals who otherwise have barriers to treatment," the authors wrote.
"The findings of this study suggest that telephone-delivered care has both advantages and disadvantages. The acceptability of delivering care over the telephone is growing, increasing the potential for individuals to continue with treatment," the authors said.
6 months after the treatment ended, people who attended face-to-face sessions were less depressed than other people.
According to Centers for Disease Control and prevention, an estimated one in every 10 U.S. adults report depression.
Some experts said that although phone based therapies had much greater response, traditional face-to-face therapies work better because they can communicate with the depressed person via non-verbal cues as well.
"You need to have a strong relationship so that people can face their fears," said Mary Alvord, clinical psychologist, to Los Angeles Times.
"However, the increased risk of post-treatment deterioration in telephone-delivered treatment relative to face-to-face treatment underscores the importance of continued monitoring of depressive symptoms even after successful treatment," the authors said.