The phone call that can chase depression away

It could be the easiest way yet to beat depression -- just pick up the phone and dial it away.

OK, it's not quite that simple. But a new study finds it could work for many of the people who try it.

Northwestern University assigned depressed patients to either 18 weeks of phone-based treatments or 18 weeks of the more traditional face-to-face sessions.

Patients in both groups improved, with those who got face-to-face treatments doing an average of 3 points better on a 52-point scale of depression symptoms.

But phone therapy did better in another -- and maybe more critical -- area: The patients assigned to it were more likely to stick with it. Four out of five in the phone therapy group completed all eighteen weeks of the study, versus four out of six among those who got the in-person treatments.

It's an important difference because actually getting to the therapist's office often stops people from getting treatment. For some, it's the hassle or even lack of a car. But for many others, the depression itself makes it so they don't want to leave the house.

Whatever the reason, telephone treatments remove that obstacle. And since they involve cognitive behavioral therapy instead of meds, I'm all for giving it a try.

But it's important to note that this will only work for cases where depression is caused by true psychological factors, such as a lost job or traumatic life event -- the kind of people who need a friendly ear and some advice on how to manage their own emotional responses.

And if that's you, it could be worth a shot.

But many if not most depression cases are caused by undiagnosed nutritional and/or hormonal problems -- and there's not a psychotherapist in the world able to fix those.

That's why I recommend getting a complete nutritional and hormonal workup from a holistic doctor if you're depressed, especially if you don't know why.

If you're in the southern California area, you can contact my clinic through markstengler.com for some of the most advanced testing available.