Can Nurses Provide Effective Telephone Therapy?

(GoodTherapy.org) Mental health organizations are always looking for ways to deliver the most effective method of therapy at the lowest price. For instance, first responders who did not study psychology can still provide necessary psychological triage treatment to trauma survivors. Similarly, teachers who work with special needs children are trained to address the emotional and physical needs of those students. For individuals with chronic health problems, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), mental health needs are just as pressing as physical health needs.

Individuals with MS must come to terms with the fact that they have a progressive neurological illness that could cause significant disability. Clients may experience intermittent bouts of symptoms that cause pain, muscle weakness, and fatigue. Over time, many clients with MS may lose their mobility and ability to complete normal tasks. These realities can cause extreme distress, anxiety, and depression in many people with MS. Helping clients cope with the mental challenges resulting from the physical changes is an important element of treatment for MS. Finding an affordable and effective way to deliver this type of therapy was the focus of a recent study by Rona Moss-Morris of the Department of Psychology and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College in London.

Moss-Morris compared the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to supportive listening (SL) in a sample of 94 individuals with MS. The therapy was delivered by trained medical nurses through phone calls over 8 weeks. At the end of the treatment period, Moss-Morris found that the participants who received CBT had lower levels of functional impairment and distress than those in the SL group. Additionally, the CBT participants became much more accepting of the limitations their illness created. In sum, the study demonstrated that nurses trained to deliver CBT were able to help their clients in ways that SL did not. However, Moss-Morris also found that the gains achieved in functional impairment were not sustained at the 12-month follow-up. Although this current study provides valuable information that could help many individuals with MS and other chronic illnesses, more needs to be done. Moss-Morris added, “We also need to know more about the optimum number of sessions to maximize therapy effects and how to better maintain benefits over time.”

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