A new study suggests that telephone consultation can be as effective as face-to-face discussion in the treatment of clinical depression.
Experts from Brigham Young University conducted a trial run, which included 30 people newly diagnosed with major depression.
Instead of eight scheduled visits to the clinic, the participants covered the same material during a series of phone calls with the therapist.
The length of calls ranged from 21 to 52 minutes. The patients did not receive antidepressant medication.
After six months, it was noted that 42 percent of participants had recovered from depression. For comparison, similar therapy conducted in person has a 50 percent recovery rate.
Diane Spangler, a BYU psychology professor and a coauthor on the study, said: "Offering a phone or webcam option for psychotherapy does appear warranted from an efficacy point of view. It's more user- friendly - no commutes, more flexibility of place and time - and has no side effects."
However, one-third of eligible participants declined the option for telephone consultations, choosing to directly interact with the psychotherapist.
Researchers suggest that for people who are comfortable with phone calls, therapy could soon be cheaper, more convenient and minus awkward waiting rooms.
The BYU researchers cited a previous antidepressant drug trial that happened to include a telephone counseling component.
In that trial, the added benefit from phone counseling matched the results attained by the new BYU study.
The study has been published in the June issue of Behavior Therapy.