A Study of the Effectiveness of Two Group Behavioral Medicine Interventions for Patients with Psychosomatic Complaints

Authors
Caroline J.C. Hellman, Ph.D., Matthew Budd, M.D., Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., David C. McLelland, Ph.D., Herbert Benson, M.D.
Publication
Behavioral Medicine
Volume 16, 1990 - Issue 4
Abstract

This randomized, prospective study investigated the effectiveness of two group behavioral medicine interventions for primary care patients experiencing physical symptoms with a psychosocial component (eg, palpitations, gastrointestinal disturbances, headaches, malaise, sleep disorders). The subjects were 80 volunteers at a health maintenance organization (HMO) in the greater Boston area. Both interventions focused on the mind/body relationship and used didactic material, relaxation-response training, awareness training, and cognitive restructuring. The two behavioral medicine intervention groups were compared with a group that focused exclusively on information about stress management and its relation to illness. Measures of visits to the HMO and of distress from physical and psychological symptoms were obtained before the interventions and again 6 months afterward. At the 6-month follow-up, patients in the behavioral medicine groups showed significantly greater reductions in visits to the HMO and in discomfort from physical and psychological symptoms than did the patients in the information group. The results suggest that when the relationship among thoughts and behaviors and symptoms of patients with psychosomatic dysfunction is actively addressed, the patients’ discomfort level and the cost of medical care can be reduced.

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