Telehealth visits by lay counselors may improve depression in older homebound adults, though not as effectively as sessions involving licensed clinicians, a new study led by professor Namkee Choi suggests.
In a randomized controlled trial, patient depressive symptoms improved significantly with both lay counselor sessions and clinician tele-visits compared to controls, according to the report published in JAMA Network Open.
“Lay counselors can do a really good job in serving underserved population groups, especially older homebound patients,” said Choi. “This group of people is not well served by existing mental health services. Even with telemedicine, many do not have access to psychiatry services because their incomes are very low.”
The lay counselors in the study had no experience with depression counseling prior to receiving 50 hours of training on the basics of geriatric depression, interviewing skills, how to provide tele-behavioral activation and how to deal with potential suicide risks, Choi said.