Nearly everyone has a cell phone with text messaging capability. For people with depression, this method of communication may help them maintain their treatment regimen. “Poor adherence to the elements of depression treatment presents a major barrier to effectiveness in real-world settings,” said Adrian Aguilera, Ph.D. and assistant professor of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. “Mobile phone-based text messaging (short messaging service; SMS) is a widely available and cost-effective tool, used by people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, that holds promise in improving adherence to mental health treatments.” Clients are often assigned homework between therapy sessions, and non-adherence to the work delays treatment. Practicing and monitoring mood regulation in real-life situations are necessary to move forward from a depressive state.
People from low-income communities may find this strategy especially helpful. “Low socioeconomic status and ethnic minority status are associated with higher rates of attrition,” said Aguilera, stating that previous research has shown less than half of low-income women complete their therapy. He added, “Thus, we need to develop practical ways of making empirically supported psychotherapy more accessible in a community context.” Aguilera and his colleagues theorized that SMS would increase treatment adherence and tested their theory on 10 clients over a 4 month period. After only two months of receiving two to three SMS daily, the results were positive. “Nine of 10 patients indicated that the text messaging made them feel closer to the group and their therapists by responding that they agreed or strongly agreed with that statement,” said Aguilera. “Patients commented that receiving text messages improved self-awareness.” He added, “Spanish-speaking patients often mentioned that receiving messages made them feel as if someone cared for them.” Aguilera hopes the findings from this study offer optional treatment avenues to people of lower socioeconomic conditions. He said, “The SMS adjunct may help provide continuity of care for those who miss sessions, may encourage consistent attendance through reminders, and can extend the intervention well after the group sessions have ended to prevent relapse and recurrence.”
Aguilera, A., & Muñoz, R. F. (2011, October 31). Text Messaging as an Adjunct to CBT in Low-Income Populations: A Usability and Feasibility Pilot Study. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025499
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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