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For Depression, Phone Therapy May Be an Answer

It was nearly as effective as face-to-face sessions, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- When you're depressed, do you need to meet a therapist in person? Maybe not, suggests a small new study, which finds that therapy by telephone is almost as effective as face-to-face.

Researchers at Brigham Young University had 30 people who were newly diagnosed with depression talk to a therapist by phone for 21 to 52 minutes. They did this instead of making eight visits to a clinic.

None of the participants got antidepressant medicine.

Six months later, 42 percent of the participants had recovered from depression. About 50 percent of patients recover from depression when face-to-face therapy is provided, the researchers said.

"Offering a phone or webcam option for psychotherapy does appear warranted from an efficacy point of view," said study co-author Diane Spangler, a psychology professor, in a statement. "It's more user-friendly -- no commutes, more flexibility of place and time and has no side effects."

But not everyone is willing to try phone therapy. A third of eligible participants declined it.

The study is published in the June issue of Behavior Therapy.

More information

For more about depression, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Brigham Young University, news release, May 11, 2010

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