|Question the evidence...maybe without all the yelling.|
A popular buzzword in medicine is evidence based treatment. That is what it sounds like: is there evidence based in sound, peer-reviewed research to backup the claim that a treatment will help relieve symptoms. So, is psychotherapy an evidenced based treatment for chronic illness?
|Lots of this floating around out there.|
In the November issue of the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases there is such a review article on if psychotherapy is helpful for people with Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis. They looked at 16 studies that used a variety of approaches to treatment and found:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Psychodynamic (PD) Therapy both help with anxiety and depression related to life with IBD, but did not help as much with physical symptoms or quality of life. Of the two approaches, CBT was more convincing as an evidence based treatment than PD.
- Medical hypnotherapy works well to treat physical symptoms and improve quality of life. There are only a few studies in this area, so the results are positive but preliminary.
- Stress management interventions (like relaxation training) don't do much on their own for psychological or physical symptoms.
Based on these findings, a combination of CBT and Hypnotherapy would be best for people living with IBD who are looking to feel better emotionally and physically. Personally, I've used this approach and find it really is helpful for most people.
Another emerging area of psychotherapy for chronic illness is the use of Mindfulness, a concept that really stems from Eastern religions like Buddhism and was applied to psychology by John Kabat Zinn. A study in the November issue of the journal Health Psychology found that mindfulness-based stress reduction treatment reduces the stress response in the body, including heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of cortisol (aka the stress hormone) in the body. This is an important consideration for people living with chronic autoimmune diseases as stress influences how the immune system functions. This study didn't specifically evaluate the mindfulness intervention in people with chronic illness.
If you're interested in mindfulness, here's a nice resource on the topic with some exercises you can try on your own.
So yes, dear reader, therapy really can help. The key is using evidence based treatments and recognizing what they do and do not seem to change.