Study Shows Teletherapy Is Effective for Depression in Individuals with Parkinson Disease

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Movement disorders
  • Parkinson disease

 A study (NCT02505737) shows cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) by telephone may reduce depression symptoms for people with Parkinson disease (PD). After 3 months of 1-hour long weekly CBT by telephone, participants depression had improved from moderate to mild. The improvements were maintained for 6 months after therapy was ended. Participants who had usual therapy (eg, antidepressants, other forms of talk therapy) had no change in their depression over the same time period, which indicates mild depression. 

Participants’ care partners, such as spouses, other family members, or close friends, were trained to help participants use the new skills. After 3 months, participants could choose to continue the sessions once a month for 6 months. The sessions focused on teaching new coping skills and thinking strategies that were individually tailored to each participant’s experience with PD.  

A total of 40% of those who received cognitive-behavioral therapy met the criteria for being much improved in their depression symptoms, whereas no one who continued their usual care met that criteria. 

“These results are exciting because they show that specialized therapy significantly improves depression, anxiety, and quality of life in people with PD and also that these results last for at least 6 months,” said Roseanne D. Dobkin, PhD, Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “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.”

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