Connecting Therapy, Depression, Stress and Heart Attacks

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 Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Iris

    Iris

    February 13th, 2011 at 5:28 AM

    No matter how much everyone wants to ignore this, this is the answer to so many of our healthcare concerns. Taking a more holistic approach and integrating all of the different living elements into treatment no matter the issue is the key to a healthier society. I am glad to see that Sweden is getting on board. Now it is time for others to come to the realization and to begin implementing healthcare programs that will verify the validity of these findings.

  • Melbourne Counsellor

    Melbourne Counsellor

    February 13th, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    It’s great to see some research behind the effectiveness of psychotherapy. It can make a huge difference to people’s wellbeing, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Great post!

  • paula

    paula

    February 14th, 2011 at 5:38 AM

    I talk to myself when I’m ill…it helps me actually come to terms with the illness or injury. And I do this when I have recovered too…When a wound has healed I congratulate myself and it makes me happy…this may sound a little weird to some of you but I really think talking to myself considerably speeds up my recovery…

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