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Telephone-Administered CBT is Effective for Depressed MS Patients with High Social Support

A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine demonstrates that individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) who have high levels of social support receive significant benefits from telephone-administrated cognitive behavioral therapy (T-CBT). The current study compared T-CBT to telephone-administered emotion-focused therapy (T-EFT) among depressed MS patients with both high and low levels of social support.

Participants (n=127) were randomized to receive either T-CBT (n=62) or T-EFT (n=65).  Both treatments were delivered over 16 weekly, 50-minute sessions. The T-CBT group participated in a manualized treatment approach, including 5 chapters focused on identifying and modifying depressogenic thoughts, increasing the number of pleasant activities, enhancing problem solving and managing interpersonal difficulties. The T-EFT group emphasized the development of a genuine, supportive and validating therapeutic relationship, in order to maximize exploration of emotional experiences; therapists in the T-EFT group were not permitted to use interventions for modifying cognitions, behaviors, or skills. Both groups were assessed at baseline and at 16 weeks post-treatment.

Results showed that MS patients with high levels of social support had greater reductions in depressive symptoms following T-CBT, compared to T-EFT. Among patients with low social support, similar reductions were noted for both treatments. For patients with high social support, CBT may, therefore, be a more beneficial treatment approach than EFT.

Beckner, V., Howard, I., Vella, L., & Mohr, D. C. (2010). Telephone-administered psychotherapy for depression in MS patients: moderating role of social support. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 33, 1, 47-59.