Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Health & Families

Beat depression from your own couch

Actually you can connect to a therapist from wherever you like. A novel study to be published in the June edition of the journal Behavior Therapy claims clinical depression can be treated "nearly as effectively" by phone as face-to-face.

"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," added Diane Spangler, a psychology professor and a co-author on the study at Brigham Young University in the US state of Utah.  

The small study included 30 participants "newly diagnosed with major depression" and replaced eight in-office sessions with a series of 21-52 minute phone calls with therapists. No one in the group was given antidepressant medication.

After six months Spangler and Steve Tutty, lead author of the study, found "42 percent of participants had recovered from depression. For comparison, similar therapy conducted in person has a 50 percent recovery rate."

If the idea of not physically being in the same room as your therapist is unsettling, you are not alone. Apparently a third of the participants opted not to take part in the telephone experiment.

The good news is therapy could become more affordable and user-friendly with flexible schedules and shorter sessions. Perhaps it will also help those that just won't step into a psychotherapist's office and help erode stigmas.