A Phone Call a Day Can Help Keep Depression Away

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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  • Sully


    October 2nd, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    not sure this would work for me- I don’t know that the daily affirmations would quite be my cup of tea, but hey, to each his own I suppose

  • Veronica


    October 2nd, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    This is a perfect idea for getting out there are reaching out to these older patients who are quite often under served in this health issue. Many times the elderly are the forgotten ones, they ofetn have very little family to look after them and they don’t do very well at self reporting these types of symptoms.
    A phone call like this could be a nice touch just for showing them that contrary to what they may feel that there are people out there who care for them and are concerned for their well being. Many times, especially in this age group, a big part of how bad they are feeling is all about how alone they could feel. Just a little effort on all of our parts could better help to show them that they are not forgotten and that there are still those of us available to help them who care.

  • Shane b

    Shane b

    October 3rd, 2012 at 4:01 AM

    personally I can relate to the mastery control segment of this treatment simply because i think that it gives us a great deal of personal empowerment and feelings of being in control when we are willing to take ownership if the problem and look for ways that we can affect it in a way that will be positive for us.

  • Dan


    October 3rd, 2012 at 4:41 AM

    Great news is what I’d say!There r so many people out there who have no access to therapy and many cannot even afford it when available. This sort of a privacy-guaranteed,affordable and useful therapy must be sweet music to their ears!

  • zoe b

    zoe b

    October 3rd, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Could I request not to have this daily confirmation and contact? Why wouldn’t I want a little separation from that relationship? I am sure that it should be important and it would be, but I think that a little distance could be good too. If I am trying to get stronger, couldn’t this begin to be a crutch?

  • Tatum


    October 4th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    I love that this is all about acceptance over change. It is far healthier to accept who you are amnd make the most of that over constantly trying to change what maybe can’t or even shouldn’t be changed.

    This teaches that you are good, that you don’t always have to change to amke someone else happy. Modify your essence, perhaps, but don’t go about working to change yourself.

    MA seems like the perfect way to achieve this. It is affirmation that you are good just the way you are and that the best way to feel good about yourself is to accept all of your unique qualities.

  • Hector


    October 4th, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    While I can see how there could be critics of this method,more choice is always good.There will always be people looking for discrete help and those that have no access or means for other methods.Choice in this form is bound to help such people to a great extend and efforts in this regard need to be lauded.

  • Walton


    October 5th, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    I agree with Hector that more choice is good. But how could you go wrong with encouraging healthier living choices. All of the options are going to work for someone but again, like any other form of treatment, you have to find the one that will be the bestfit for you and the best fit for your needs.

  • dee


    October 7th, 2012 at 8:51 PM

    this sounds like a good idea, but wont work for me i battle deppression and social anxiety,esp talking on the ph

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