The image of a patient reclined on their psychotherapist’s couch is iconic, even though couches have long since disappeared from most medical offices. Now, the findings of a new study suggests thatface-to-face office visits may also become a thing of the past—or, at least, unnecessary. Instead, the telephone may become the tool of choice for psychological counseling.
Research led by David Mohr, professor of preventative medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, looked at whether patients with depression stuck to psychotherapy longer if they had their therapy sessions over the phone. (One of the biggest problems with psychotherapy, which is an effective means of treating depression, is patient retention: Typically, nearly half of patients quit after just a few sessions.) They examined the results of 12 previous trials of telephone-administered psychotherapy, and turned up some surprising results: More than 90 percent of patients kept up with their therapy when it was done over the phone. The study also showed that telephone therapy was as effective as face-to-face treatment at reducing depressive symptoms.
"The problem with face-to-face treatment has always been very few people who can benefit from it actually receive it because of emotional and structural barriers," says Mohr in apress releaseabout the research. "The telephone is a tool that allows the therapists to reach out to patients, rather than requiring that patients reach out to therapists."
The study was published in theSeptember issueof Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Co-author Stacey Hart is an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s Department of Psychology.
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