Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the recommended therapy for people managing a number of long-term health conditions, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFSME), Chronic Pain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS,) Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS) and Hypermobility syndromes. CBT cannot cure the physical symptoms of these health conditions, but it can complement other medical interventions to support people to manage their symptoms in a more effective way and improve their quality of life.
Psychology can often progress and complement an individual’s recovery or management of their health issues. We have extensive experience in working with both individuals and families to help them cope with a range of physical health difficulties. This includes:
Research shows that psychological symptom management programmes help people to manage pain and other symptoms more effectively and reduce the impact of these on their lives. Using these coping techniques in no way implies that pain or symptoms are not real or that someone has a mental health problem. These techniques have been shown to be a beneficial adjunct to other treatments, such as medication and physiotherapy.
You may wonder how psychology can help with pain, given that pain is experienced as a physical problem. Research has shown that intensity of pain is influenced by a range of psychological factors. Pain is processed in the brain. This does not mean that pain is ‘in the mind’ or ‘not real’, but pain can change based on what we think, how we feel and what we do.
For example, brain scans have also shown that more activity occurs in ‘pain areas’ of the brain when people are feeling sad or anxious (Boettgar et al, 2011). This happens because the brain uses a range of information to interpret pain. This includes physical changes, as well as our thoughts and feelings. When we feel threatened our brain is more likely to interpret signals in the body as pain. This can affect pain intensity and influence our behaviour and activity levels, which in turn will affect the success of physiotherapy treatment outcomes.
There are numerous psychological techniques that can help individuals to better cope with pain and progress their physical rehabilitation, including: