Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - Image of a Dr. and a patient talking in consult

As the popularity of mindfulness practices increases among the general public, it is not unusual for scientists and health professionals to begin to consider the potential benefits of various psychotherapeutic approaches in managing health conditions. Some have put forward the idea that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), one of the more popular psychotherapeutic approaches, can be used as a way to manage chronic pain.

At its most essential, CBT is a family of skills-based training exercises. It is largely founded on the premise that an individual, not their external conditions, create their own experiences. This understanding lends itself to the idea that pain is perceptual, rather than being a sensory phenomenon. As a perceptual phenomenon, pain takes into account the varied responses different individuals have to similar kinds of pain. As a sensory phenomenon, the pain would largely be described as a response to tissue damage. Under this perceptual phenomenon framework, additional factors such as cognitive, social and attentional are used to describe pain which then expands the pool of potential treatment options.

While CBT as a form of chronic pain management seems to provide some benefits, there is still much research to be done on measuring its efficacy. However, numerous studies, including a Cochrane review, have concluded that when compared with treatment-as-usual or wait-list control conditions, CBT had a statistically significant albeit small effect on pain and disability and it proved to be superior to other psychological treatments for chronic pain.

Future research should focus on what specific aspects of CBT work and for which kinds of patients the treatment works on.

Please visit cbt.drwilderman.com for more information.

Written by Eleanor Ndaiga

References:

Hofman S G et al. The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses. Cognit Ther Res [Internet]. 2012 Oct [cited 2017 Nov 17]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584580/

Williams A C de C, Eccleston C, Morley S. Psychological Therapy for Adults with Longstanding Distressing Pain and Disability. Cochrane Database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2012 Nov [cited 2017 Nov 17]. Available from: http://www.cochrane.org/CD007407/SYMPT_psychological-therapy-adults-longstanding-distressing-pain-and-disability

Ehde D M, Dillworth T M, Turner J A. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Individuals with Chronic Pain. Am Psychol [Internet]. 2014 Feb-Mar [cited 2017 Nov 23]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24547801

Songer D. Psychiatry [Internet]. 2005 May [cited Nov 24]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3000182/

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