Telephone Therapy vs. In-Person Therapy

By Monica Wilson on September 05, 2018

 Psychotherapy is one of the most common and effective treatments provided to those who are suffering from depression and other mental disorders. The term generally refers to a therapeutic interaction between a trained professional and the client. Aside from meeting face to face, some patients prefer to seek treatment over the telephone. But is this method as effective as the face-to-face session being practised in clinical environments?

New Research: Telephone Therapy is as effective as In-Person Therapy

In a new study, the answer seems to be positive. Researchers from the Northwestern University found that for some people, telephone-based therapy may just be as effective as the face-to-face cognitive behavioural treatment – at least in a short term.

David Mohr, Director of the Centre for Behavioural Intervention Technologies in the University, together with his team of researchers recruited 325 people who are diagnosed with depression. The participants were randomly assigned to a weekly CBT sessions which were performed either in the therapist’s clinic or over the phone. The psychotherapist who administered the telephone treatments was also the one who initiated the face-to-face therapy sessions.

Surprisingly, only 21% of the participants dropped out of the telephone therapy after 18 weeks. On the other hand, there were 33% who stopped attending the in-person therapy. Nevertheless, the researchers found that participants from each group had equally benefited from CBT during the course of the treatment.

Dr Mohr and his team continued monitoring the progress of the participants for 6 more months after the treatment has ended. At this point, those who had face-to-face therapy showed higher improvement than those who went through the telephone therapy.

The researchers believed that these findings don’t necessarily mean that the telephone therapy is less effective. According to them, it’s possible that those who went through the telephone therapy ended up including more patients with severe depression symptoms. Even though all the participants from the two groups started out with mild depression, there’s a possibility that severely depressed participants from those who had face-to-face therapy dropped out from the treatment, leaving a lower number of participants with major depressive symptoms.

Dr Mohr added that perhaps, those who had telephone therapy were easily tracked down by their therapists than those who had face-to-face CBT sessions.

At this moment, the researchers are still investigating whether their conclusions are true and whether the in-person is indeed more effective than the telephone-based psychotherapy.

Different Voices Unheard Over the Telephone

Telephone therapy sounds great especially for those who are having a hard time setting up appointments with their therapists or those who find it uncomfortable opening up to someone they don’t know. But some therapists suggest that clients can learn more experienced when they attend sessions in person. Here’s the thing. Through in-person therapies, practitioners can better understand their clients by looking on gestures, expressions, and other non-verbal cues that are somehow impossible to comprehend over the phone.

Whether it’s telephone-based or face-to-face, there’s no denying that psychotherapy is an effective, harmless treatment that’s available for those who want to free themselves from the dungeons of depression. Personally seeing the therapist provides long term effects to patients. But for people who have extenuating barriers to attend CBT sessions in the therapist’s clinic, telephone support is always a good idea.

Being professional therapists, we’d like to know what you think about telephone and in-person therapy. Feel free to post your comments below.


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