While many people work with a therapist or counselor to overcome depression, there are some for whom depression is only addressed at their primary care clinic. Last week, new research came out showing that primary care physicians trained in cognitive behavioral therapy could have a significant influence on how well their patients recovered from depression and anxiety. But primary care treatment, like every other time of treatment, is much less successful if people don’t keep up with their treatment.
A new program, pioneered in Minnesota in 2008, is now spreading state- and nation-wide because it has been able to improve the number of people staying with treatment, and also improve how well they recover. It’s called Diamond, and its premise is simple. Following up with patients treated for depression improves their recovery rates six months out. Clinic employees call patients to check in and see how things are going. They ask whether the person is taking any prescribed medications and whether they’re experiencing any side effects. And perhaps even more importantly, they coach the person on coping with symptoms of depression. Human follow up has been proving quite effective, both anecdotally and statistically. Anecdotally, patients report feeling much better knowing someone is calling to check in, and even recommend using a similar approach for chronic physical illnesses. Statistically, clinics participating in the Diamond program had a higher rate of follow-through (patients kept subsequent appointments and stayed in touch with staff), and patients who were called had a lower rate of depression symptoms six months out than those who weren’t.
The Diamond program has been replicated in clinics across Minnesota and is starting to be implemented in other states, as well. The effectiveness of the program reinforces the importance of human connection and support in overcoming depression. This helps support primary care treatment, and offers an especially strong case for counseling and talk therapy as a means for overcoming depression in the long term.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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