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Telephone-administered CBT found effective during treatment period (USA)

June 21, 2012

The June 2012 issue of JAMA provides the results of a study showing that patients with major depression can be effectively treated in the short-term via telephone-administered cognitive behavioural therapy (T-CBT). In fact for patients receiving T-CBT, symptom relief was as good as those having face-to-face CBT by the end of the treatment period. However, at the 6 month follow-up review, patients with face-to-face CBT were less depressed than those receiving T-CBT.

Researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, found that T-CBT was particularly useful during the initial engagement period when patients are referred for CBT, but access barriers prevent them from getting help. It was also noted that significantly fewer patients dropped out of therapy when it was delivered over the telephone, particularly prior to week five of treatment.

While patients were receiving T-CBT, relief from their depressive symptoms was as good as those receiving face-to-face therapy. However, researchers did find that the six month follow-up showed significant differences in remission between the two delivery methods with only 19 per cent of T-CBT patients being fully remitted as opposed to 32 per cent for those with traditional CBT.

Study authors state that T-CBT has advantages in providing treatment to populations that are underserviced due to access barriers (such as rural populations, patients with physical chronic illnesses and disabilities) but ongoing monitoring of depressive symptoms is recommended even after successful treatment.

To read the online JAMA abstract, “Effect of Telephone-Administered vs. Face-to-face Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on Adherence to Therapy and Depression Outcomes Among Primary Care Patients” go to www.jama.com.

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