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New International Study Will Explore Accessibility of Talk Therapy Treatment for New Mothers

July 22, 2019
School of Medicine

Depression and anxiety during and after a pregnancy is the most common complication associated with having a child. Up to one in five women experience these issues during what’s known as the perinatal period. Talk therapy is a proven and effective treatment method for women experiencing mild to severe symptoms, yet less than one in five women have access to this care.

This study, co-led by Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Perinatal Psychiatry Program, and Daisy Singla, assistant professor of psychiatry at University of Toronto and clinician scientist at Sinai Health System, will investigate how to make talk therapy treatment – specifically behavioral activation – more accessible to all women.

“This study attempts to meet the public health need of providing psychotherapy like behavioral activation to perinatal women on a population level,” said Meltzer-Brody, UNC School of Medicine Ray M. Hayworth Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and co-principal investigator for the study. “Many people don’t get the services they need, especially in rural areas. We want to reach people where they are and increase access for these patients.”

“It is difficult to access quality talk therapy,” said Crystal Schiller, UNC School of Medicine assistant professor of psychiatry and clinical lead of the study. “There’s a real limit on the number of specialists in North America, and it is also expensive – many of the specialists are out of network so patients have to pay out of pocket. As a result, many women actually get medication as a first step instead of starting with talk therapy.”

Behavioral activation is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on providing patients with the skills needed to make small behavioral changes that can improve their mood and overall mental health. The treatment is traditionally provided by a trained specialist. This $13.2 million study funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute will seek to determine who can successfully provide the treatment, and in what method the treatment is best received by patients.

Read more on the School of Medicine website.

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