Depression can manifest in many ways. For some people, the symptoms of depression are chronic and severe and can diminish the ability to function and erode overall quality of life. For others, the symptoms are more moderate, and though they may still interfere with daily life, often go untreated. The consequences of leaving depression untreated include increased stress and decreased physical health. For this reason, researchers have sought to explore novel and wide-reaching intervention approaches. One such method of treatment is the use of telephonic therapy. This has been shown to be cost effective, and allows clients to maintain privacy and still participate in treatment. But until recently, the effectiveness of differing types of phone therapy had not been measured in older individuals with depression.
To address this gap, Alex J. Zautra of the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University led a study that examined the effectiveness of three separate guided self-help methods on a sample of 73 middle-aged Hispanic and white adults with moderate depression. The participants were enrolled in a mindfulness acceptance program (MA), a personal mastery/control program (MC), or a program that provided tips for healthy living (HT). Prerecorded 5-minute messages were delivered by phone every morning for four weeks, and the participants were instructed to record their moods and outcomes in a daily journal.
Zautra discovered that the participants in the MC and MA groups had better outcomes than those in the HT group. But, he added, “Across the 31 days of the study, the MA group demonstrated the most robust effects.” Although the MC and MA resulted in equal improvements in emotional well-being, the MA participants had better levels of overall physical health. The findings of this study, although limited by participant age and duration of data collection, provide evidence that brief, inexpensive interventions can reduce symptoms of depression in adults. Zautra hopes that the results of this study will motivate clinicians and researchers to look further into alternative methods of treatment for people with depression.
Zautra, Alex J., Mary C. Davis, John W. Reich, John A. Sturgeon, Anne Arewasikporn, and Howard Tennen. Phone-based interventions with automated mindfulness and mastery messages improve the daily functioning for depressed middle-aged community residents. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration 22.3 (2012): 206-28. Print.
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