New Psychological Therapy Better Than Old for People with Fibromyalgia

New Psychological Therapy Better Than Old for People with Fibromyalgia

By Staff.

Research using a novel psychological therapy finds that addressing emotional experiences related to trauma and conflict may be helpful for people fibromyalgia, as compared to cognitive behavioral therapy or educational intervention.

The study was led by Mark A. Lumley, Ph.D., distinguished professor of psychology at Wayne State University, David A. Williams, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan Medical Center, and published in the journal PAIN.

In the randomized clinical trial, 230 adults with fibromyalgia received one of three treatments, for eight weekly sessions to small groups of patients. The new therapy is called Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET), and was co-developed by Howard Schubiner, M.D., director of the Mind Body Medicine Program at Providence Hospital. They say the therapy helps patients view their pain and other symptoms by changing the neural pathways in the brain that are influenced by emotions.

“EAET helps patients process emotional experiences, such as disclosing important struggles, learning how to adaptively express important feelings — especially anger and sadness but also gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness — and empowering people to be more honest and direct in relationships that have been conflicted or problematic,” the office for the vice president at Wayne State University wrote in an announcement.

In the clinical trial, the EAET intervention was compared to both an educational intervention, as well as, cognitive behavioral therapy (the gold standard psychological approach in the field). Six months after treatments ended, patients were evaluated for the severity and extent of their pain and other problems that people with fibromyalgia often experience.

Patients who received EAET had better outcomes compared to education intervention.  They had reduced widespread pain, physical impairment, attention and concentration problems, anxiety, and depression and more positive emotions and life. More than twice as many people in EAET (34.8 percent) reported that they were “much better” or “very much better” than before treatment, compared to 15.4 percent of education patients.

Those who received EAET therapy also had greater benefits than those who received cognitive behavior therapy in reducing widespread pain, and in the number of patients who achieved at least 50 percent pain reduction.

“Many people with fibromyalgia have experienced adversity in their lives, including victimization, family problems and internal conflicts, all of which create important emotions that are often suppressed or avoided. Emerging neuroscience research suggests that this can contribute strongly to pain and other physical symptoms,” Lumley said. “We developed and tested an approach that tries to help people overcome these emotional and relationship problems and reduce their symptoms, rather than just help people manage or accept their fibromyalgia. Although this treatment does not help all people with fibromyalgia, many patients found it to be very helpful, and some had dramatic improvements in their lives and their health.”

National Pain Report is interested in knowing if our readers with fibromyalgia use any form of psychotherapy as part of their overall treatment regimen. If so, have you tried EAET?  Leave us a comment.

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Authored by: Staff

There are 13 comments for this article
  1. Jodi at 9:25 pm

    Tim, my best answer would be to Google Fibromyalgia. It has been around a long time, it just wasn’t given a name. My mother in law was diagnosed back in the 90’s and she’s in her mid 60s now, it gets worse as time goes on. It has been finally getting studied more by doctors who are finally figuring it out that it is not an “all in your head” disease. I have most recently learned by my doctor that it may have to do with our connective tissues. I also suffer from arthritis since I was a child, IC, degenerative disk disease, CRPS from a bad knee replacement that I had at age 38 that got infected and took 5 surgeries to try to fix it with no success. Plus now they are looking into MS. Most people with fibro have widespread pain, chronic fatigue that makes it so you can’t get out of bed for sometimes days, muscle issues, ibs, everyone has their own issues, those are mine. This disease seems to be hitting women of all ages and sometimes men as well. It seems every new issue that starts with me is always the fibro though. I’ve been having brain zaps along with a quick like dizziness that follows. I have been seeing shadows out of the sides of my eyes. Colors get distorted. Our counter tops in our kitchen are a lighter color and sometimes I see green dots on there which look like pickle juice that one of my kids spilled. It turned out they weren’t even eating pickles. Those are just my issues. Im sure many people have other problems associated with fibro. I don’t have any idea what you mean by what types of physical labor mimic fibromyalgia. I worked at a grade school 1st through 3rd grades, I caught a lot of kids falling off monkey bars…

  2. Steven at 11:48 am

    Thank you for hitting the nail on the head!

  3. Karen at 10:10 am

    Does anyone know of this being offered in the Cookeville Tennessee area?

  4. Ibin at 9:04 am

    I have seen my wife of 39 years go from an energetic winning bodybuilder to not being able to willfully get out of bed. Even with medication previous to the CDC “policy”, with psychological :treatment” she has NOT faired well. Now, today she is crying because of the pain and fatigue that is so overwhelming. ANY treatment, a cure would be great but, until medicine finds another effective means to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgea and lymes disease, how about removing the politics, the “expert” opinions and let our physicians treat the patients. CDC MUST be aware of the hellish impact of the “policy” but, it takes an “act of congress” to help our own people. Patents that have NO history of any type of abuse with personal medication. I can not help but to wonder what the real agenda is. Who’s making the money from the CDC “policy” because evidently the realized catastrophe of the policy upon real people just don’t make a damn. It is impossible to “shrug off” continuous, severe, life time pain.

  5. Steven Smith at 8:37 pm

    Another idea. How about Benny Hinn next? It seems that he has similar effects on subjects although the results may only last minutes. Please. If they could think themselves well then they would not need a doctor. Please, can we allow that people have serious pain and it might just not be all imaginary?

  6. StevefromMA at 7:54 pm

    You ladies are pretty sharp; I’m always impressed by commenters who read the Report.

    I’m in a clinical study by Epicgenetics Bruce Gillis, M.D., that starts with the FM/a test, a blood test for defects in blood cells produced by the brain inflammation of FM. I hope to get a cure next year. You might Google the test. It’s his hypothesis, no guarantees, but no risk, the treatment is a variation of a widely used vaccine. Hopefully it will cure us.

  7. Tommy This at 6:40 pm

    Tim,
    Apparently I’ve said this before, but I’ve known women and some men who have been devastated by this painful disease and it is no respecter of age. It may just be that you’re just becoming aware of it and the attention is brought up by women who (Unlike our generation) have been cut off the medication that was so readily available before the so called “Opioid Epidemic”; hence one hears more about the negative impacts of the disorder and the outright “quackery” by some who think that “It’s all in their minds” as mainly male Doctors have told women this for years.
    A member of my family went through EMDR counseling after domestic violence and she said it literally “…saved her life.” at the time she went though the counseling.
    But as someone who is carrying Vietnam related osteo injuries that have gotten worse with time, I’d find it pretty insulting if someone were to offer me EMDR or whatever else is the avant guard of psychology. I have a great deal of pain, but I cannot pretend to know what the pain of Fibromyalgia is, but clearly it hurts and in the current age of destroying the weaker members of our own society (No reference to gender either.) it’s going to take med’s that were once used responsibly by most of us and are now vilified by a broken government and broken health care system, along with string pullers who are getting rich off the pain of others.
    For me, I have my future to keep me going, but for many who do not believe as I do, my heart hurts for them as this Country I once proudly served has turned on those who are in pain and labels everyone under the umbrella of “drug addicts.” God forgive me as there are times I find myself wishing they could feel the pain they so glibly inflict on others having no conception until it happens to them.

  8. Patricia at 12:19 pm

    Fibromyalgia is a SYNDROME representing multiple illnesses. Counseling may, or, may not help. If hormonal issues are not corrected (e.g. low cortisol, thyroid and progesterone), and immunological issues are not addressed, there is no hope of for significant improvement.

  9. Carla Cheshire at 9:41 am

    It would be interesting to see if the time between the adverse events and the onset of Fibromyalgia in patient’s lives has any correlation to the effectiveness of EAET. Would EAET therapy during or right after adverse events ward off Fibromyalgia before it starts to show symptoms?

  10. Lindy Brockington at 9:07 am

    Is this similar to EMDR? I went through EMDR treatment a few years ago for severe anxiety and PTSD. I think it helped for a while. This was before I started having issues with FMS/CFS.
    Now I’m dealing with pain and fatigue that is practically ruining my life. Maybe I should look into EMDR again or even see if someone in my area is using this new treatment you describe in the article.

  11. Kthy C at 8:24 am

    They make some rather broad and unfounded statements here:
    “They say the therapy helps patients view their pain and other symptoms by changing the neural pathways in the brain that are influenced by emotions.” There is no way to determine if any “Neural Pathways” were changed. This is one more short term limited “Study” making claims that cannot be substantiated in any way. These “Therapies” are just barely better than nothing, so comparing 2 types does nto mean that either of them either work or are very effective.
    Perhaps the “Newer Therapies” were done by younger more energetic therapists. It would not be apparent here, but the Bias might have affected the interpretation of the outcome. Perhaps the only benefit from “Therapy” is from interaction with other human beings, which many people with these kinds of conditions tend to avoid. In such a small Study there would be no way to determine the effectiveness of individual Therapists, that can vary a lot.
    Psychologists have a very keen interest in promoting this “Mind Body Connection” and like everything else it is misinterpreted as a “Cure.” It is pretty well understood that a lot of these types of conditions have a basis in early trauma. This applies to more obvious Physical Conditions like heart disease, yet we won’t see any “Studies” done on a more clearly “Physical Condition.” This is by design! Heart Conditions are easier to Quantify. There are clear physical markers available to researchers. They can’t make these Overstated Claims about Heart Disease. They can’t ask the subject, if they “Feel Better” and apply expectation, and their own beliefs to the outcome. One either has heart Disease or they don’t. The Indicators are easily measured with blood tests, Exertion tests or EKGs. This does not hold true with Fibromayalgia.
    Note that they will never do any “Research” as to whether time at a Spa, or a Vacation Resort, has an effect on Fibromaylagia Pain, or compare that tot a “Treatment.” One of my old Math Professors taught me the “Plug and Chug” method for Mathematical Equations, just replace the Variable and then solve the equation. In this case replace the “Therapy” with a pleasant activity. When I read these Overstated Studies, I replace the “Therapy” with say a good Massage, A trip tot the beach, or other pleasant activity. Then the “Study” falls apart. They design the this way for a reason, so they can overstate the outcome. They deliberately don’t “Study” what individual factors led to the perceived improvements.
    They choose to “Study” one type of Psychotherapy compared to the other for a reason. it is misleading. These “Researchers” have a clear financial and career interest in promoting the “Mind Body Connection.” This has become very profitable for the Medical and Insurance Industries too. They can dismiss people with these types of conditions becasue their is a “Mind Body Connection.” When a person has a Heart Condition, they are required to evaluate or treat it at an E.R. A Physician would have to follow a Treatment Protocol. With Fibro or other Pain Disorders there is no fear of the patients dying and possible Liability. Physician will use the “Mind Body Connection” to deny treatment or diagnosis, because there might be an “Emotional Situation.” They did find this same type of connection with Heart Disease, but no Physician would deny treating a person with a heart Condition, because they can develop depression. In general any long term limiting health condition can lead to emotional distress, but they don’t study that. They also don’t choose to dismiss the Symptoms because the person could be “Catastrophizing.”
    This kind of Pseudo Science is very popular and Profitable. All it takes to get a gullible public to believe this to to get more Media Attention given to it than all of that boring Science Articles. People want to believe that good thoughts, or a Magic Bullet can fix us all. There is a much darker undercurrent here too. Fortunately for Psychologists , they can expand their business and credibility. When we Cherry Pick “Science” we can not only advertise false narratives, we can get self promotion, and funding too.

  12. Darlene Haight at 7:08 am

    EAET may help people with fibromyalgia. My fear of this type of treatment is that people may wrongly consider it to be a panacea to this disorder, underscoring the idea that this is a psychosomatic disease. Many to most people with fibro also suffer from associated disorders that also cause specific and/or widespread pain, ie; migraines, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, etc. I unfortunately suffer from all those & more. While that type of psychotherapy may help, which would definitely be a blessing, it isn’t a “cure”. Again, my fear for this is that people who don’t have fibro, chronic fatigue, osteoarthritis, etc., & know the devastating effect these disorders have on every aspect of daily life, will consider this psychotherapy to be a a solution to the fibromyalgia mystery.

  13. Tim Mason at 6:10 am

    What is Fibromyalgia? I can put the latin together and come up with a tissue and state but it looks like rheumatism renamed. Is this an old disease with a new name? Is it a trashcan diagnosis?
    I am asking a serious question here. I am 60 and this appears to be hitting our young 30 year olds hard. I heard lady Gaga has it at 31. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome at 30 something but laughed it off and went on making money and raising a family.
    What types of physical labor would mimic fibromyalgia? I carried 8 and 12 inch concrete blocks all day long,-all summer
    I don’t doubt that FM exists but I would like….
    1. HIH or PubMed peer reviewed article for my files
    2. Age group and occupation that is affected
    3. What medications (if any) is it treated with.
    4 What are the alt Dx if any and comorbidities that are seen in those with Fibro
    This is a genuine request. Pain is subjective and I want to relate fibro to something I am familiar with

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