Nearly fifty percent of patients quit going to a therapist's office after a few sessions, but a new meta-analysis has found that when patients receive psychotherapy for depression over the phone, most of them continue with the therapy.
In the first study of telephone-administered therapy studies, researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found that on-phone therapy is becoming more widely used by health care providers and employee-assistance programs.
The new study found that the average attrition rate in the telephone therapy was only 7.6 percent compared to nearly 50 percent in face-to-face therapy.
Also, telephone therapy was found to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms with results that are apparently similar to face-to-face treatment.
"The problem with face-to-face treatment has always been very few people who can benefit from it actually receive it because of emotional and structural barriers. The telephone is a tool that allows the therapists to reach out to patients, rather than requiring that patients reach out to therapists," said David Mohr, professor of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School and lead author of the study.
He said that out of all the patients who ask for psychotherapy, only 20 percent actually turn up for a referral and half later drop out of treatment.
"One of the symptoms of depression is people lose motivation. It's hard for them to do the things they are supposed to do. Showing up for appointments is one of those things," said Mohr.
However, patients may be facing many problems in turning up for the appointment that may include lack of transportation or time, caring for kids or elderly parents or other family obligations.
In such a scenario, telephone therapy proves to be a better choice, as it seems to transcend all the barriers.
Mohr began using telephone-administered therapy because he was working with patients who had multiple sclerosis who could not get to a therapist's office.
Mohr said what's needed is a definitive study with a randomly selected population of patients that directly compares therapy delivered in the traditional face-to-face manner to therapy delivered over the phone.
The study is published in the latest issue of Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice.