How Do I Know This Works?

Research has shown CBT to be effective in improving bowel symptoms, psychological distress, and quality of life. A recent review and analysis of existing studies (meta-analysis) found that the number needed to treat for CBT in IBS is three, meaning that if three people are treated with CBT, one will clinically improve. This statistic is better than what is seen in several of the most effective FGID medications. 

What to Expect 

If you're interested in seeing if CBT could be helpful for your GI symptoms, you'll need to schedule an evaluation with a health psychologist, preferably one who has specialized training in working with GI patients. In the evaluation, you'll be asked many questions, including questions about your GI symptoms, your mood, your health behaviors (e.g. diet and sleep), and about stress in your life. Your psychologist will then provide a recommendation about whether CBT, or another behavioral treatment, could be effective for your symptoms, or provide a referral, when necessary. Proper treatment means your therapist will collaborate with your gastroenterologist and sometimes other health professionals who work with you. Your therapist will likely expect you to track your symptoms and discuss their frequency and severity to ensure that your symptoms are decreasing throughout treatment. CBT treatment for FGIDs is typically brief, ranging anywhere from 4–10 sessions.

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IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization. Our mission is to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal disorders.

Our original content is authored specifically for IFFGD readers, in response to your questions and concerns.

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Adapted from IFFGD Publication #276: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for IBS and Other FGIDs by Alyse Bedell, MS, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Laurie Keefer, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, NY.

Last modified on June 11, 2018 at 11:12:23 AM

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