A new study in England reveals that for most people, cognitive therapy over the phone is just as effective as meeting with a psychotherapist face-to-face.
Researchers also found that providing talk therapy over the phone increases access to psychological services for people with common mental disorders, while at the same time saving money.
The researchers analyzed data from 39,000 patients in the east of England who participate in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies services, an initiative that aims to expand the availability of psychological therapies.
The researchers, who compared cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered face-to-face versus over the phone, found that for all but an infrequent, identifiable clinical group with more severe illness, therapy over the phone was as effective as face to face.
The cost per session was also significantly lower — about 36 percent less than the face-to-face cost.
The researchers note that many patients may be unable to access mental health services because of transportation issues, work commitments or physical disability. Increasing the availability of talk therapies over the phone make mental health services more accessible to patients.
“Providing therapy over the phone will not only help individuals gain much-needed access to mental health treatment, it will provide a more cost-effective way of providing these services at a time when everyone is concerned about cutting costs,” said Peter Jones, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study from the University of Cambridge.
Mental illnesses affect one in four adults in Britain every year, the researchers said, noting that Britain’s National Health Service spends more on mental health than it does on cancer, heart disease, stroke and asthma put together. General practitioners in the UK spend more than a third of their time on mental health issues.
Collaborating on the study were researchers from the University of Cambridge, the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care, and NHS Midlands & East.
The research was published in the journal PLoS ONE.