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We can take care of (some) pain by ourselves through internet-based CBT


Would you rather go see someone for help or would you rather just take care of it (whatever it is) by yourself? For those in the second group, this post is for you!*


I know I generally fall in that group where I’d really rather just take care of myself unless I really cannot. In this post, I’ll be talking about mental and physical health and, in reality, we cannot do everything ourselves without some professional and technical expertise. However, I will also say, there is a lot we can do on our own.


Because of that, psychologists have come together to build some great resources to handle chronic conditions associated with pain. These chronic conditions also tend to bring about mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, so in thinking about and tackling this issue, we should consider all of the above.


A specific intervention that has been used many times (and has shown promising effects as seen in our visual abstract for this week) is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). But not just any CBT! INTERNET-BASED CBT (ICBT)!



This opens up the possibility that many, many more people can get the help they may need or are seeking. ICBT makes it much more convenient for patients to learn and apply some high-level therapeutic techniques to change their thought patterns and learn healthy behaviors. Here’s how it works:


1. You would hop onto a website.

2. They will tell you about or make materials to teach you about the purpose of CBT.

3. You’ll learn about the relevant stressors that would impact your condition.

4. Then you would also learn how to cope with these stressors.

5. You’ll spend some time thinking about your life goals to create more meaning in your life.

6. You can learn ways to manage pain.

7. And also you can learn ways to manage change which inevitably happens with chronic conditions (e.g., change in your daily routines).

8. There will be activities for you to increase self-esteem and become more self-efficacious/autonomous.

9. And you can even get personalized to-do lists to help you keep track of your thoughts, emotions, and the various aspects of your own health regimens.

10. Some ICBT will probably also have specific components related to relationships and how to have high-quality relationships and how to keep in the loop of others in your social network so you aren’t feeling alone or isolated.

11. The whole thing will take 5-15 weeks depending on the program.

You’d think I was selling you something, but I am not! This is literally just what the program is. If this sounds great, then perhaps even talking to your doctor(s) would be good to see if they have an ICBT program to recommend to you.


In general, ICBT programs reduce depression and anxiety and can even reduce pain!



And, if I haven’t made it clear yet, you get to do this on your own time. You don’t have to drive anywhere. You don’t have to talk to anyone. You don’t have to feel potentially awkward or stigmatized for receiving help, which happens and is totally valid and possible.


This really could be a game-changer as long as it becomes widely known and accessible enough to the people who need it.


I will also say that, maybe some parts of this sound appealing, but maybe other parts don’t. For example, you may like that you can do this on your own time BUT you don’t like that you can’t talk to anyone about the program. Well, also depending on the program, some therapists are available to help guide you. Some programs also make a whole online environment for you to be able to interact with other patients so you can share experiences with each other. It seems like there will be some variability in these programs…and there should be!


There is no single program that would work for everyone. Instead, everyone has preferences and different things that will work for them. More research still needs to be done in order to completely figure that out, but it is promising enough to know there are reliable and positive findings from ICBT as it stands.


ICBT is even better than a fair amount of other interventions including the STANDARD CARE that doctors already adhere to. And, it still does as well as alternatives such as group CBT or receiving good information.


Personally, I think that is so noteworthy. If the research showed that ICBT does worse than other treatment options, I don’t think this blog post would have been as positive; I mean, there are 25 studies that show ICBT does as well as if not BETTER than most every other intervention that is similar to this.



One last note: we don't know how this compares to pharmaceuticals. My guess is that it would enhance the effect of any pharmaceuticals (or at the very least, not get in the way of the intended effects). And, it very well could help people reduce and stop the use of pharmaceuticals, at least eventually. Pills and other medicines definitely have a place, especially for extreme cases. I tend to think that there is a lot of stuff we could do by focusing on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through natural, psychological remedies. We'll see soon enough as more research comes out on this!


-Alex


*This post is for everyone and I think anyone reading this could get something out of it.

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