CAN WE TALK OUR WAY TO BETTER HEALTH?
USE OF COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY IN TREATING FIBROMYALGIA SYNDROME
Many studies suggest that various types of ‘talking therapies’ may help alleviate the symptoms of physical conditions. The most successful of these is CBT.
Just because you may explore this option or be referred to it by your doctor or specialist does not mean that your Fibromyalgia is ‘all in your head’. CBT recognises the root of your diagnosis and does not try and dispute this; - moreover it tries to offer solutions as to how you can better take control of your own illness.
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Cognitive behavioural therapy is the term for a number of therapies that are designed to help solve problems in people's lives. CBT was developed from two earlier types of psychotherapy:
1) Cognitive therapy, designed to change people's thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and expectations.
2) Behavioural therapy, designed to change how people acted.
American psychotherapist Aaron Beck helped to develop CBT and believed that the way we think about a situation affects how we act. In turn, our actions can affect how we think and feel. It is therefore necessary to change both the act of thinking (cognition) and behaviour at the same time.
How does CBT work?
CBT teaches people how to make sense of problems by breaking them down into smaller areas to see how they are connected and how they can affect you. This includes looking at thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions in reaction to a situation.
Usually the recipient will be asked to keep a diary to identify how they react to certain events. This will help to identify patterns of thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions, and see if they are unrealistic or unhelpful. The recipient and the therapist then work together to make changes. Once the person learns to identify negative patterns, they then learn how to replace these negative thoughts with positive ones during everyday events. This isn't always easy but using CBT techniques you can try out different behavioural approaches in real situations, which can help to bring about changes.
How does CBT work in relation to Fibromyalgia?
Cognitive behavioural therapy may be of benefit to some people with Fibromyalgia. Unlike other types of psychotherapy, it does not involve 'talking freely', or dwelling on events in your past. CBT tends to deal with the 'here and now' - how your current thoughts and behaviours are affecting you now. CBT is problem-focused and practical. CBT may actually help to ease pain symptoms. But it can also help you to take control of the extent to which pain, tiredness, or other symptoms interfere with your life.
CBT involves assisting persons with FMS to self-manage their disease by learning and applying a range of cognitive and behavioural techniques. For example, techniques such as relaxation therapy, coping skills, cognitive pain management, and eliciting social support have been shown in several clinical trials to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
How to find a CBT Therapist
You have two routes you can go down. Firstly you could seek help on the NHS. This will involve initially speaking with your doctor and asking to be referred to a CBT therapist. Your doctor is likely to be supportive of your taking the management of your illness so seriously. You will then receive an appointment for an initial assessment during which the therapist will assess your needs. Unfortunately due to the high demand for CBT on the NHS you could be waiting more than 6 months for a series of treatments.
Alternatively you could go private. Again your doctor may be your first port of call for recommending a therapist. You could also ask around for personal recommendations. Due to a lack of qualified CBT therapists you should be prepared to travel up to 30 miles to find a good therapist – this will be worth it though. Sessions are not cheap – you could be looking at somewhere of around £40 per session of 30-45 mins. Although the good news is that you are likely to get an appointment with a week.
As we have stated, CBT might not be for everyone, but as a charity we are aware of a number of people who have literally been able to get their lives back on track after their diagnosis thanks to CBT. So keep talking folks!!