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Cognitive behavioral therapy by phone as effective as in person in non-severe cases

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If making an appointment to see the psychiatrist or therapist for your regular therapy is a hassle, here's some good news. A phone therapy session may be just as helpful.

A recent study has found that cognitive behavioral therapy over the phone is just as good as in person for all but the most severe cases. 

This study looked at the scores on several assessments of patients' depression, anxiety, general health and work and social adjustment.

"Ask your therapist about phone therapy."

The study was led by Geoffrey C. Hammond, PhD, of the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Hammond and colleagues wanted to find out if doing cognitive behavioral therapy over the phone was just as cost-effective and therapeutically effective as doing it in person.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to treat depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress syndrome and a range of other mental health conditions.

The researchers used data from 39,227 adult patients who were referred for services with Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, a program designed to make psychological therapies more available for a wider range of people.

Ultimately, the study focused on the data of 4,106 participants from the larger group.

In patients who had mild or moderate symptoms, the therapy delivered over the phone was found to be just as good as receiving it in person.

Only the most severe cases among the patients needed the face to face therapy for effective treatment.

"The clinical effectiveness of low intensity cognitive behavioral therapy-based interventions delivered over the telephone was not inferior to those delivered face to face except for people with more severe illness where face to face was superior," the authors concluded.

"This provides evidence for better targeting of therapy, efficiencies for patients, cost savings for services and greater access to psychological therapies for people with common mental disorders," they wrote.

The researchers found that the cost of doing the therapy over the phone was 36.2 percent lower than doing it in person.

The option of phone therapy, therefore, may offer a lower cost alternative to in-person therapy, especially if patients have difficulty traveling to the location of their therapy.

The study was published September 28 in the journal PLoS ONE. The research was funded by the National Health Service East of England and the National Institute of Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. All the authors and their employers are partners in CLAHRC.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 4, 2012
Last Updated:
October 6, 2012