Telephone psychotherapy and telephone care management for primary care patients starting antidepressant treatment: a randomized controlled trial

JAMA. 2004 Aug 25;292(8):935-42. doi: 10.1001/jama.292.8.935.


Context: Both antidepressant medication and structured psychotherapy have been proven efficacious, but less than one third of people with depressive disorders receive effective levels of either treatment.

Objective: To compare usual primary care for depression with 2 intervention programs: telephone care management and telephone care management plus telephone psychotherapy.

Design: Three-group randomized controlled trial with allocation concealment and blinded outcome assessment conducted between November 2000 and May 2002.

Setting and participants: A total of 600 patients beginning antidepressant treatment for depression were systematically sampled from 7 group-model primary care clinics; patients already receiving psychotherapy were excluded.

Interventions: Usual primary care; usual care plus a telephone care management program including at least 3 outreach calls, feedback to the treating physician, and care coordination; usual care plus care management integrated with a structured 8-session cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy program delivered by telephone.

Main outcome measures: Blinded telephone interviews at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months assessed depression severity (Hopkins Symptom Checklist Depression Scale and the Patient Health Questionnaire), patient-rated improvement, and satisfaction with treatment. Computerized administrative data examined use of antidepressant medication and outpatient visits.

Results: Treatment participation rates were 97% for telephone care management and 93% for telephone care management plus psychotherapy. Compared with usual care, the telephone psychotherapy intervention led to lower mean Hopkins Symptom Checklist Depression Scale depression scores (P =.02), a higher proportion of patients reporting that depression was "much improved" (80% vs 55%, P<.001), and a higher proportion of patients "very satisfied" with depression treatment (59% vs 29%, P<.001). The telephone care management program had smaller effects on patient-rated improvement (66% vs 55%, P =.04) and satisfaction (47% vs 29%, P =.001); effects on mean depression scores were not statistically significant.

Conclusions: For primary care patients beginning antidepressant treatment, a telephone program integrating care management and structured cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy can significantly improve satisfaction and clinical outcomes. These findings suggest a new public health model of psychotherapy for depression including active outreach and vigorous efforts to improve access to and motivation for treatment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy* / methods
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Telemedicine* / methods
  • Telephone*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents