An overview of a very interesting, though small study. This is not surprising from my experience and understanding of body-mind patterning and I’ve been a long advocate of the importance of emotional self-awareness and self-expression in health and healing. This facet is often ignored, for a variety of reasons, and fortunately this is slowly changing as public understanding of the science of mind-body medicine evolves.
From the linked article and overview of the study:
“Researchers led by Elyse Thakur at the Department of Psychology, Wayne State University in Detroit conducted a randomised controlled trial on a specialised form of talking therapy, Emotional Awareness and Expression Training (EAET), aimed at helping IBS patients to better recognise and express their emotions.
The research team compared the treatment to either relaxation training – which has been previously shown to be a helpful treatment – or to a control group of patients on waiting list for intervention. Both the EAET and relaxation groups received three 50-minute training sessions delivered over three consecutive weeks i.e. one session a week. They were assessed two weeks after the end of the last session, and again 10 weeks after that.
Participants in the EAET and relaxation groups received a similar explanation about the link between stress and IBS but the EAET group were provided with specific skills to improve emotional expression such as thinking of someone they have a difficult relationship with and being encouraged to describe those feelings out loud as if the person were present. They were later encouraged to express their emotions directly to that person. In comparison, the relaxation group were coached in muscle relaxation, deep breathing and mindfulness meditation.
At the end of the 10-week follow-up period 63% of the people in the EAET group reported significant improvements in their IBS symptoms while people in the relaxation and waiting list groups did not report any significant change in the severity of their IBS.
What is striking about this result is that the intervention was very brief, less than three hours in total, and the participants had been ill for many years. This could mean, in practical terms, that provision of this kind of treatment might be highly cost-effective.”
Read the full review of the study from the British Psychological Society here.