More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Benefits Found in Long-Distance Psychotherapy
January 05, 2005

BOSTON, Jan 5, 2005 (U.S. Newswire) -- It may seem like a basic necessity of any treatment that the patient and the doctor be in the same room-especially in the case of the very personal process of psychotherapy. But as the January issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter reports, studies are showing that psychotherapy can be effective even when the doctor is "seeing" the patient through phone calls or video.

One study done on veterans in Maryland, for example, found that patients who used computer video to make contact with their psychiatrist were just as satisfied with therapy as those who had more traditional sessions. Another study found that symptoms improved in depressed patients who received cognitive behavioral therapy by phone.

Yet another study showed that like so many other workers, therapists may potentially be replaced by machines in some situations. In this study, patients who received computerized cognitive behavioral therapy via a specialized video program ended up with a greater reduction in symptoms and more improvement in social functioning compared with patients who received standard care, including psychotherapy. The patients who completed the video program said they felt satisfied with the treatment.

What do these findings mean for the field of psychotherapy and its patients? The editors of the Harvard Mental Health Letter note that long-distance treatment opens up new doors for patients who might be unable (because of disability or agoraphobia) or unwilling (because of busy schedules or long travel time) to go to a doctor's office for therapy. After all, the article points out, about 20 percent of people who make an appointment with a mental health professional never show up, and another 20 percent never return for a second visit.
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.