Lead author David Mohr, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, found phone therapy is a rapidly growing trend among therapists. About 85 percent of psychologists deliver some of their services over the phone because competing demands, transportation time and other problems make it difficult for many patients to get to their offices.
"Now therapists can make house calls," Mohr said in a statement. "Our study found psychotherapy conveniently provided by telephone to patients wherever they are is effective and reduces dropout. This suggests these services now should be covered by insurance."
The randomized control trial, involving 325 primary care patients with major depressive disorder, found 20.9 percent of patients who had cognitive behavioral therapy over the phone dropped out compared to 32.7 percent for face-to-face therapy.
Patients in both therapies showed equally good improvement in their depression when treatment ended. Six months after treatment ended, all patients remained much improved, the study found.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.