Simple Intervention Measure Tested for Depression

Going through the symptoms and far-reaching personal, professional, and social consequences of depression is often a difficult experience, prompting many people to seek the care of mental health workers in one capacity or another. In Germany, a large number of people afflicted with thoughts and feelings of depression begin and end their report of the concern with their general practice physician. This trend is often capable of helping to provide specialized care when needed, but can also fall short of delivering the attention and tools that can help clients overcome depression. Recently, a team of German researchers has tested the efficacy of a simple intervention measure that can be used by general practice offices to help those with depression.

The study instructed trained personnel from participating practices to follow up with clients a month after their general practice visit, assessing depression-related issues and engaging in a discussion about relevant events, thoughts, and feelings. The intervention measure was designed to reinforce the idea that clients are not alone and have a clear path towards assistance if desired. The researchers posit that the phone calls may also be an important element of encouraging self-care, helping to cut down on rates of self-harm and destructive or negligent behaviors.

The research team collected positive results from the study, finding that those clients who were contacted following their general practice visit showed greater signs of mental well-being. The intervention measure may quickly be employed both in Germany and around the world, especially in other areas where general practice doctors encounter high instances of depression that is not treated through a mental health specialist. Easy to implement and maintain, the measure is likely to find a high degree of success in the field.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Barbara


    October 1st, 2009 at 4:30 PM

    My g.p. office was essential in diagnosing my depression. This may not be the case for everyone but without mine I would be in a very bad state right now. Yes he referred me to a psychiatrist for the appropriate follow up care, but without his taking an interest in what was going on in my life I may have not been able to get to the help that I needed in time. I will be forever grateful to that office and everything that they did for me.

  • Phil


    October 2nd, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    It is normal human tendency that if there is a follow-up, the healing process will be much faster, a better one and a smoother one. Any kind of help and reassurance, especially from the medical fraternity, is sure to spruce up any individual on his road to recovery.

  • Nancy


    October 2nd, 2009 at 11:52 AM

    But don’t you think that there could also be some danger when a general practitioner becomes too involved in cases like these? Therapy for any patient can be a highly personalized issue, and the amount of training necessary to do it and do it right is just something that most doctors in these kinds of offices do not posess. I am not saying that they should not get involved at all but I do think that it is much better to allow a real therapist to do the work and the follow up so that there is an assurance that the patient is receiving the best form of treatment.

  • Fletcher


    October 5th, 2009 at 12:04 PM

    A follow up phone call by an assistant is more reminiscent of customer service than not health care. Are these assistants really qualified to judge whether there is a deterioration or not? I’m not persuaded that that is a good practice.

  • Elizabeth R.

    Elizabeth R.

    October 5th, 2009 at 12:21 PM

    It’s better than none whatsoever Fletcher. Why not just make an appointment each month as the patient leaves for them to come back to see the doctor? That’s what my doctor did when I had depression. I never left the building without having the next appointment arranged for the following month.

  • Samuel


    October 5th, 2009 at 12:52 PM

    My fear would be that the assistants don’t have all the tools at hand to assess the patient. A phone conversation imparts far less information than a face to face meeting. You have no body language to help interpret what you’re hearing. Hopefully the questions are probing enough to overcome that.

  • Paige


    October 5th, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    The study has already shown that this is effective. It could simply be knowing someone cares enough to keep tabs on you that makes the difference. When you’re depressed it’s very easy to believe not a soul cares whether you live or die. Been there…

  • cdimatteo


    October 5th, 2009 at 2:08 PM

    A significant proportion of individuals need to alleviate anxiety, feel less depressed and more energized, develop new coping strategies, develop new styles of communicating and to create changes in behaviour, feeling states, or ways of thinking. Such changes help individuals build better relationships and live life more fully at home, and work, and at play.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on