Therapy conducted over the phone shows promise in treating depression among those with Parkinson’s
About 50% of those with Parkinson’s disease suffer depression, and a treatment that seems to alleviate that suffering is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Now a recently published study suggests that CBT over the phone can reduce the symptoms of depression in Parkinson’s patients. The study appeared in April in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study involved 72 patients with the disease (average age: 65), with half taking part in CBT over the phone for one hour each week for three months. Both those who took part and those who didn’t continued their regular treatments, which generally included taking anti-depressants or seeing a psychologist.
Participants were asked to rate the severity of their depression on a scale. The group’s average was 21 at the beginning of the study, indicating moderate but not severe depression. After the end of the three months, the group’s average had fallen to 14, indicating mild depression. Those who hadn’t participated in the therapy saw no improvements in their scores. In addition, 40% of those in therapy met the criteria for “much improved” in their symptoms of depression, again not the case for those who didn’t.
“In many instances, depression is a more significant predictor of quality of life than motor disability. So easily accessible and effective depression treatments have the potential to greatly improve people’s lives,” said Roseanne D. Dobkin from Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, who co-authored the study.
The positive results tended to last for six months. Those providing therapy over the phone focused on teaching coping skills to fit each participant’s challenges with Parkinson’s. They also helped those caring for participants, such as spouses, learn how to support the patients in these new skills.
One limitation was that the study didn’t include those with very advanced Parkinson’s or those with dementia in addition to Parkinson’s.
“While these findings need to be replicated, they also support the promise of telemedicine to expand the reach of specialized treatment to people who live far from services or have difficulty traveling to appointments for other reasons,” Dobkin said.