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Early Talk Therapy May Help Stroke Patients Bounce Back
Date:6/24/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- After suffering a stroke, patients who talk with a therapist about their hopes and fears about the future are less depressed and live longer than patients who don't, British researchers say.

In fact, 48 percent of the people who participated in these motivational interviews within the first month after a stroke were not depressed a year later, compared to 37.7 of the patients who were not involved in talk therapy.

In addition, only 6.5 percent of those involved in talk therapy died within the year, compared with 12.8 percent of patients who didn't receive the therapy, the investigators found.

"The talk-based intervention is based on helping people to adjust to the consequences of their stroke so they are less likely to be depressed," said lead researcher Caroline Watkins, a professor of stroke and elder care at the University of Central Lancashire.

Depression is common after a stroke, affecting about 40 to 50 percent of patients. Of these, about 20 percent will suffer major depression. Depression, which can lead to apathy, social withdrawal and even suicide, is one of the biggest obstacles to physical and mental recovery after a stroke, researchers say.

Watkins believes their approach is unique. "Psychological interventions haven't been shown to be effective, although it seems like a sensible thing," she said. "This is the first time a talk-based therapy has been shown to be effective.

One reason, the researchers noted, is that the therapy began a month after the stroke, earlier than other trials of psychological counseling. They speculated that with later interventions, depression had already set in and may have interfered with recovery. Early therapy, Watkins has said, can help people set realistic expectations "and avoid some of the misery of life after stroke."

The report was published in the July issue of
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