Integrated Health Psychology

Exploring the

connections between

physical and psychological

well-being

Integrated Health Psychology

Approaches and Therapies

 

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing

 

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new and powerful psychological treatment that was originally designed for sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is capable of facilitating a rapid and permanent reduction in distressing thoughts and feelings. As well as reducing psychological distress, the method leads to more adaptive attitudes and functioning.

 

EMDR is now proving a very effective therapy extending beyond trauma with positive results reported in the treatment of phobias, anxiety, depression, over-eating, fibromyalgia and chronic pain disorders.

 

As a treatment for pain, EMDR offers a method of facilitating permanent changes in how pain is experienced in the body and emotionally. Unlike many other therapies, EMDR does not require the client to go into detail or relive distressing events of the past.

 

As many chronic pain sufferers have also experienced varying degrees of trauma, EMDR is proving to be a time and cost effective approach that helps a person see the debilitating impact of chronic pain in a new and less distressing way.

Mindfulness

 

Mindfulness is about intentionally paying attention to the present moment, bringing qualities such as openness, acceptance and a non-judgemental approach to our emotions, thoughts and sensations.

 

Mindfulness-based therapies seek to uncouple the sensory, physical or feeling aspects of pain from the too-often linked emotional aspects of pain.

 

There is strong evidence of the effectiveness of mindfulness in the treatment of the chronic pain symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia, back and shoulder pain and trauma. It provides a solid foundation for all forms of pain therapies including those related to unresolved trauma.

 

Mindfulness helps to restore a balanced sense of health and wellbeing through improved self-awareness and self-regulation of pain and associated symptoms.

 

More recent evidence shows that regular Mindful practice can lead to a reduction in reported levels of pain, stress, and an increase in cognitive flexibility, motivation, physical activity, quality of life and a decreased dependency on analgesics.

Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping

 

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping has been used by thousands of people to successfully relieve the symptoms of chronic pain. The technique, like EMDR, targets both the emotional, physical and underlying traumatic aspects of pain.

 

It involves verbally expressing emotions out loud while tapping with your fingers on specific meridian points on the body.

 

The technique has an extremely strong evidence base, and is easy to learn. It is very adaptive to other associated chronic pain symptoms such as sleep problems, fears and phobias.

 

EFT is gentle, even for people with fibromyalgia who can be very sensitive to touch.

Somatic Experiencing

 

Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SE) is a powerful short-term, step by step body-awareness approach that is aimed at resolving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental and physical trauma-related health problems including chronic pain.

 

SE is used to treat two types of trauma: shock trauma and developmental trauma. Shock trauma is caused by a single traumatic event or near-death experience. Developmental trauma refers to the damage that occurs during childhood development.

 

SE uses bodily sensations (the “felt sense”), to connect with and gradually release the energies held in the body as traumatic symptoms.

 

It is an effective adjunct to traditional therapies and medical management in the treatment of the chronic stress responses that underpin many of the body’s physical symptoms.

 

Conditions such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, post-surgical pain, myofascial pain and tension, accident and combat trauma, and stress related medical conditions respond well to somatic experiencing.

Relaxation Therapy

 

For centuries, relaxation has been used to calm the mind and recharge the body.

 

It is generally accepted that stress, worry and anxiety are major factors in the exacerbation and maintenance of chronic pain.

 

The focus of relaxation training is to reduce both physical and mental tension levels through the activation of the all-important parasympathetic nervous system. When the relaxation response is activated, your……

 

  • heart rate slows down
  •  
  • breathing becomes slower and deeper
  •  
  • blood pressure drops or stabilizes
  •  
  • muscles relax
  •  
  • blood flow to the brain increases
  •  

In addition to its calming physical effects, the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity.

 

Having the ability to become aware of stress, and to effectively self-regulate its impact on the body, is essential for the management of chronic pain.

 

Relaxation training is an effective strategy on its own, but adds greater value when used in conjunction with other therapies.

 

Best of all, anyone can reap these benefits with regular practice.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an acceptance and mindfulness based approach that can be applied to many psychological disorders including chronic pain.

 

ACT emphasises the observation of  thoughts, feelings and emotions as they are, without trying to change them, and choosing behaviours consistent with values, goals and life directions.

 

The basic idea of ACT as applied to chronic pain is that while pain hurts, it is the struggle with pain that causes suffering. Continuing attempts to control pain may be maladaptive, especially if they cause unwanted side effects such as anxiety, depression and anger, or if they prevent rather than encourage involvement in valued activities including relationships, recreational pursuits, work commitments and family.

 

ACT-based interventions have demonstrated benefits in assisting the mental health and well-being of chronic pain sufferers, including pain-related anxiety, distress, disability and minimising the reliance on medical visits. Various components of ACT, including mindfulness, are often utilised in conjunction with other pain management strategies.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

 

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment approach for a wide range of mental, emotional and physical health issues including anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

 

CBT is designed to help you identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts, feelings and emotions and learn practical strategies to help reach your goals of living the life you want.

 

Developing a range of CBT skills can help you change the way your mind influences your body. When you shift your thinking away from pain you change your focus to more positive aspects of your life: recreation, family, relationships, work, careers, eating and exercise.

 

Research provides evidence that CBT is an effective therapy for chronic pain and associated psychological challenges, and is often used either alone or in conjunction with other pain therapies.

 

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