A study at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine reports that phone therapy for primary-care patients with clinical depression is as effective as therapy at the doctor’s office. In fact, the study asserts that phone therapy can enable patients to access therapy more effectively than traditional psychotherapy, where people may encounter barriers due to everyday life circumstances. “They don’t have a baby sitter or transportation. They can’t get off work, or they’re just not feeling up to leaving home” said Dr. David Mohr, lead study author and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  “Especially in rural areas, getting to the therapist’s office can be difficult.”

A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association reported 85% of licensed psychologists have used phone therapy to some extent.  However, Mohr said not all insurance companies cover it, but he is hopeful this study will encourage more companies to consider it.  “Untreated depression costs them more in the long run because it can lead to other health problems, including eating disorders, alcohol abuse and greater cardio-vascular risk.”  Mohr cautioned however that therapy over the phone is not suitable for all people.  While it can also be effective for some people with anxiety, it does not translate for people with psychotic disorders, when the therapist should see the behavior of the patient.  Nor is it effective for people who are unable to retreat to a quiet room, away from children, T.V.’s and other distractions

One participant in the study who has suffered from depression on and off for the last 60 years believes nothing can replace office psychotherapy.  However, after taking part in this study she now understands the benefits of phone therapy.  “When you’re depressed, you grab at any piece of wood that comes along.  Phone therapy can be that.  After I closed my bedroom door and removed distractions, phone therapy was almost as good as being in the therapist’s office.  For the homebound, especially, I can see it being effective.”    Chicago Tribune 6-13-12



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