From the Doctor's Desk: The Case for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

August 10, 2011

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By Daniel Hoch, PhD, MD
Editor, AAN.com for Patients and Caregivers

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a cheerleader for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I've been through it, learned a little about how to do it, proposed research studies of its impact on epilepsy, and regularly refer my patients for CBT. Naturally, I read with enthusiasm the study in this week's Neurology® showing that CBT can reduce so-called functional symptoms; neurologic symptoms that don't seem to have an identifiable neurologic cause.

This finding complements the work done by my friend and collaborator Steven Safren, MD, here at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Safren has shown that CBT can help reduce symptoms of ADHD, improve adherence and reduce depression in diabetes and HIV, reduce anxiety in cancer, and help people with many other medical problems. I recommend the series of books on this topic published by Oxford University Press called Treatments That Work .

What is especially exciting about the study in Neurology is that the course of therapy was self-guided CBT. One of the problems I frequently face when referring my own patients for CBT is the limited number of therapists and long wait for the next available appointment.

For additional information about cognitive behavioral therapy, there is an excellent article at PsychCentral.

Neurology Now® features an excellent article on the use of cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of insomnia that nicely demonstrates how this approach works.

Finally, to see how cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to treat those with non-epileptic seizures, see this article in Neurology Today®