Hepatitis C (HCV) is a serious virus that can cause significant damage to the liver. Many individuals who contract HCV do so through blood transfusions or intravenous drug use. The illness can have detrimental physi..." /> Hepatitis C (HCV) is a serious virus that can cause significant damage to the liver. Many individuals who contract HCV do so through blood transfusions or intravenous drug use. The illness can have detrimental physi..." />

The Psychologist’s Role in the Treatment of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a serious virus that can cause significant damage to the liver. Many individuals who contract HCV do so through blood transfusions or intravenous drug use. The illness can have detrimental physical health consequences and can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. Individuals with HCV also experience psychological problems as a result. For instance, many people who are diagnosed with HCV are of low socioeconomic status and have limited access to adequate health care. Other psychological conditions that are common among individuals with HCV include discrimination, depression, and substance misuse. Additionally, the treatments available for HCV can cause negative side effects and decrease a client’s quality of life.

Psychologists are also trained in social and behavioral sciences, and although they are not the first line of defense in the treatment of HCV, they are a vital component in the overall treatment regimen. Donna M. Evon of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine recently published a paper emphasizing the importance of psychological treatment for those living with HCV. Evon says that many individuals with HCV do not adhere to their medical treatment regiments because of other psychological issues such as substance abuse. Working with a psychologist as well as a medical doctor can help these individuals address their addiction issues, which could then increase their commitment to HCV treatment.

Evon believes that psychologists need to be proactive in their involvement. She suggests that mental health clinicians ally themselves with hepatologists and gastroenterologists in order to increase the overall level of care for these clients. Psychologists may be able to not only help with comorbid conditions but also help clients deal with the adverse side effects of medication and the psychological stigma and discrimination surrounding HCV. Evon adds, “Biomedical advances in HCV and antiviral treatment have created a fertile field in which psychologists are uniquely positioned to make important contributions to HCV management and treatment.”

Evon, D. M., Golin, C. E., Fried, M. W., Keefe, F. J. (2012). Chronic hepatitis C and antiviral treatment regimens: Where can psychology contribute? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029030

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  • aaron

    July 14th, 2012 at 3:58 AM

    I first learned that I had hep c a few years ago, long after I had stopped using heroin. It was quite the blow, because I thought that once I kicked the drugs then I had nothin to worry about, that I was all good. Wrong. No one ever told me that seeing a therapist could help me, no one ever offered that as a suggestion to me at all and I never thought about it either. Not that I have the money to do anything like that, I have a hard enough time making ends meet now. I stay sick a lot so it’s hard to hold down a steady job. Someone might give me a chance but then once they see how much time I have to take off work, that ends that chance pretty quickly.

  • Ramone

    July 14th, 2012 at 6:27 AM

    How many therapists or psychologists actually have an interest in aligning themselves with the doctors who generally treat these hepatitis c patients? They have to know that for the most part these will be men and women who are uninsured, would have to be self pay and with little ability to do so. It is difficult enough to know which persons will test positive for the disease, and then to add extra health care to what they need poses even more of a burden on the rest of us. I am all for looking out for fellow man, but when I can barely afford basic care for myself, why do I then have to provide it for others? I suppose that’s a discussion for another day.

  • Simon

    July 14th, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    A disease affects our mind just as much as it does our body.The war against it is therefore fought in the mind too.And if the help of a specialist helps in the mental front then why not?

  • winnie

    July 14th, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Just think- if the people who contract this disease could go back and get their health back again then there would be no need for the therapist. Don’t you think that this is first and foremost what most of them would aspire to instead?

  • kelly.p

    July 14th, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    its always better to have a wider net.especially when it is well known that those with hepatitis c could be prone to other things such as substance abuse,it makes perfect sense to have a psychologist present during the course of the treatment to prevent any complications.

  • Harry E

    July 15th, 2012 at 7:28 AM

    Its always better when an approach wherein all the issues present in an individual are considered for treatment rather than just identifying one problem and going after it. This approach not only increases chances of recovery but also helps prevent any complications due to wrong treatment without knowledge of a co-existing problem. I hope such approaches becomes the norm and that we soon head towards a holistic healthcare approach.

  • Loyd

    July 15th, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    The articles doesn’t address issues that are very important such as how can those patients afford it as so many do not have insurance cover…

  • Mari Caroline

    July 15th, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    The role of the psychologist in the life of anyone who has been handed a diagnosis such as hepatitis c or any other potentially devastating and fatal disease can be very critical to maintain the mental stability and emotional stability of the patient. Most doctors are looking only at the physical ramifications of diseases such as this, but rarely do they think about the emotinal hardships that these same patients are forced to deal with too. Most of the people who receive this are unprepared for the changes that something like this could force them to make, and they need someone not only giving them the right medications but also someone who can assure them that this does not mean that life is over. I think that this is a critical element to many health care scenarios which has been ignored and overlooked for a very long time, and that this is a great time to start voicing our opinions that this is the right direction that we need to take in the medical industry as a whole.

  • Donna ruth

    July 16th, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    There are obviously benefits to be had from working with a psychologist on these types of issues.
    But I think too of the ones who cannt afford this treatment, and who will actually feel worse knowing that this is perhaps something that could be good for them but that once again they can’t afford to obtain.
    When will we do a better job leveling the playing field and ensuring everyone can have access to the same level of care?

  • Cynthia Hoff

    July 16th, 2012 at 6:27 AM

    I was diagnosed with HCV in 1995 by a psychiatrist. I was the 5th person he had diagnosed. He was very excited about it, but after that dropped me as a client. I got HCV from a blood transfusion when I was 20 years old. I had 11 units of whole blood from a hospital that was literally sued out of existence when it came to light they were buying whole blood 3 blocks from a methadone program. A lot of people got sick. I went on to become an IV drug user. I needed help during treatment but never got it. I can remember struggling, sometimes for hours, to inject interferon into my thigh. It made me so sick! Before when I injected things they made me feel good. By the time I got into the 11th month of treatment it took hours to do my injection! I was supposed to do 12 months but I stopped after 11. I had 3 heart attacks, retinal detachment as well as the usual side effects, but treatment was successful and my liver, once described as a lace doily, is now unremarkable for a woman my age. The psychological ramifications of enduring treatment without proper mental support I am still dealing with. The quality of my life has never been the same either. But I’m alive! Upon diagnosis I was given 2-3 years to live so treatment was a success, but my mind and self confidence is pretty shot.

  • shane

    July 16th, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    if there’s a health problem then i’ll go to the doctor,to the specialist.there is no need of an entire team of doctors for every disorder out there.we do not have enough medical professionals anyway, how are we gonna manage if everybody who has some disorder needs a team of different doctors? what is the importance of specialists then?

  • Sheila H

    July 16th, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Most patients who are willing to go through the medical treatment would be more than happy to also see a psychologist. But again, like so many others have already said, for most it will boil down to how will they afford this additional care. Will it be covered by my insurance? How do I know that this is something that will help me? There are just a myriad of issues involved that no one seems to really have the answers for.

  • gavin

    July 17th, 2012 at 4:32 AM

    would be great to see partnerships like this springing up in many different areas of the medical field

  • Parker

    July 17th, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Until there is a willingness from the medical doctors to own up to the fact that having psychologists collaborate with them withing this domain, there will remain very few partnerships of this sort.
    There are a great number of those in the medical profession, and we all know them, who don’t think that they need help from any other field when it comes to providing the very best care for their patients. Most of the are convinced that only they hold the key to recovery and success, and if the patient chooses another approach then they may not be all on board with the direction that this takes.
    I think that most of us here recognize that this kind of collaboration would only help patients facing hepatitis c or cancer or whatever other illness they are having to live with. But I am not certain that the medical community in a very strict sense will be in agreement.

  • Cynthia Hoff

    July 18th, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    What helped me the most was the support group, HEP (Hepatitis Education Project). They have groups all over the Pacific Northwest and lots of good information and support without judgement. There were everything from doctors to truck drivers to homeless addicts in the group so someone always could relate.

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