An estimated 20 million people in the United States suffer from depression, but their list of treatment options may be growing.
A new study finds people with depression who receive therapy over the phone stick with their treatments longer and the quality of those treatments are not inferior to face-to-face conversations.
Northwestern University researchers compared face-to-face therapy and telephone-administered cognitive behavioral therapy among 325 depressed people.
Participants were randomly placed in one of the groups and were given the chance to take part in up to 18 sessions.
Results show 33 percent of the people in the face-to-face group discontinued treatment before session 18, while only 21 percent of the people in the telephone group dropped out.
In terms of changes of level of depression, researchers say telephone therapy was not inferior to face-to-face at reducing depressive symptoms at the end of treatment, but face-to-face therapy was significantly superior to telephone during the 6-month follow-up period.
In fact, 32 percent of the face-to-face therapy patients were fully remitted at 6-months compared to 19 percent of the telephone therapy group.
Researchers say telephone care has advantages and disadvantages.
Experts say, whether it's by telephone or through the help of technology, remote therapy sessions have a place in psychotherapy.
"Ways of using the computer and web cams and that sort of thing where we can actually see the patient and do therapy as well. Now, that's a study that needs to be done, too. If we can actually see the patient, although we're not with them physically, what kinds of results would we see? Definitely getting psychotherapy to more people is important. It is effective," said psychologist Scott Bea, Psy.D. of Cleveland Clinic.
Complete findings for this study are in the "Journal Of The American Medical Association."