Therapists and counselors talk often of the connections between physical and mental health. Medical practitioners are starting to come on board, and plenty of ancient practices (e.g. yoga, T’ai Chi, meditation, etc.) bridge that gap by their very nature. When we talk about the connections between mind and body, it’s easy to say, “Of course, that makes sense. Your mood affects how you feel physically, and your body’s health affects your mood.” But too often, we stop short of really putting that knowledge to work in our daily lives. It’s easy to compartmentalize: see the psychotherapist for emotional issues, the pastor for spiritual issues, the chiropractor for joints and the family doctor for sickness. As a result, we treat individual problems as though they are separate. But in practice, we experience them as a whole being, and they influence one another.
What would it look like to include psychotherapy as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for a physical problem? Physicians in Sweden have done exactly that, and the results were recently published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. In the study, 400 adults who’d experienced a cardiac event in the past year all received traditional care, but half also received one year of psychotherapy. The therapy used in the study focused on five elements of stress-reduction: education, self-monitoring, skills training, cognitive restructuring and spiritual development.
In follow-ups an average of seven years later, those who’d participated in the psychotherapy had a 45% lower rate of recurrent heart attacks. That’s a pretty striking figure: a 45% decrease in the incidence of recurring heart problems through a holistic, non-invasive, non-medicinal approach is nothing to scoff at. And the more therapy people attended, the better their outcome. This study is solid, scientifically founded evidence that honoring the mind-body connection isn’t just a useful way to gain perspective; it’s a useful way to live a healthier life all around.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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