Using the telephone to complement psychotherapy for depression

An study in the April issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology concludes that when people receive brief telephone-based psychotherapy soon after starting antidepressant medication, strong positive effects may continue 18 months after their first session.

  • 400 patients received psychotherapy plus an antidepressant.
  • At 18 months, 77% of those who got phone-based therapy reported their depression was “much” or “very much” improved.
  • This compares to 63% of those receiving regular care.
  • Those getting phone-based therapy were slightly better at taking their antidepressant medication.
  • The effects were stronger for patients with moderate to severe depression than for those with mild depression.

An article in Medical News Today quotes researcher Dr. Evette Ludman. “The patients participated more fully in psychotherapy and completed more sessions than do most depressed people in the community.”

Nationally, about half of insured patients receiving depression treatment make any psychotherapy visit, and less than a third make 4 or more visits. By contrast, in this study, 3 in 4 patients completed at least 6 phone therapy sessions. This is striking, she added, because the study did not include people who were already in counseling or planning to be.

These results support an earlier study where the Internet plus short weekly telephone calls were used to help treat panic disorder.

3/29/07 16:25 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.