Adding a link telephone-based counseling talk to the typical treatment for depression—medication—goes a long way in helping to overcome the illness, concludes the largest study of phone-based counseling to date.

Among the 400 patients studied, those who received brief phone-based psychotherapy soon after they started taking antidepressants fared better than those getting meds alone. Researchers say those getting talk time reported better improvement in symptoms, higher satisfaction with their treatment, and were more likely to continue taking their drugs than those getting meds alone.

And these positive effects continued for up to 18 months after the first telephone consult, says lead researcher Evette J. Ludman of the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle. She notes the benefits were more pronounced in patients with moderate to severe depression than those with milder forms of the disease.

The secret may be in what is said: During these phone sessions, therapists encouraged patients to identify and counter their negative thoughts, to pursue activities they had enjoyed in the past, and to develop a plan to care for themselves.

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