Researchers Pioneer Accessible, Cost-Effective
Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4980
ALBANY, N.Y. (February 17, 2004) -- University
at Albany researchers are pioneering more accessible,
cost-effective treatment programs for two of the
nation's common ailments, Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Rather than relying on the common face-to-face,
therapist-patient relationships, the unique treatments
are self-managed, with the patient undertaking
much of the therapy through reading material,
structured homework, and diagnostic tools.
"It's the wave of the future," says
doctoral research supervisor Edward B. Blanchard,
director of the UAlbany Center for Stress and
Anxiety Disorders. "The treatment is very
accessible to people who have limited mobility
or limited access to areas where therapists tend
to locate, such as cities. It's self-managed and
self-paced, and less expensive than traditional
treatment. And it's done under the trained eye
of a clinician, who can help assess progress."
Therapy for Crash Victims
Doctoral student Jill Sabsevitz is developing
a treatment program for sufferers of PTSD specifically
related to the aftermath of motor vehicle accidents
(MVA). Some studies suggest that 45 percent of
accident survivors who seek medical attention
will develop PTSD within one year of the event,
and an additional 15 to 30 percent will develop
less overt, subclinical levels of PTSD. Sabsevitz'
treatment utilizes the book Coping
With Your Crash, by Blanchard and Edward
Hickling, as the focal point of the self-managed
program. After an initial consultation and assessment
with a therapist, patients undergo a series of
exercises described in the book designed to overcome
feelings of anxiety, anger, vulnerability, and
depression, as well as steps such as the incorporation
of pleasant events into the daily routine. The
patient mails in "homework" to his therapist,
who then gives the okay for advancing to the next
step. The last step is self-assessment, in conjunction
with a trained therapist.
"With physical injuries often preventing
people from traveling," said Sabsevitz, "and
with PTSD symptoms also inhibiting accident victims
from getting out, this type of therapy aims to
meet their needs and get them on the road, literally,
to better health, physically and mentally."
Web-based Treatment Reaches
Jonathan Lerner has taken the program one step
further by researching entirely Web-based self-managed
treatments for MVA-related PTSD. He offers a comprehensive
assessment, treatment, and evaluation on his Web
and to date has had responses from more than 100
MVA survivors on five continents. While his treatment
does not offer an initial face-to-face consultation,
he has high hopes for its efficacy. He notes,
"To date, there’s strong evidence indicating
that a cognitive-behavioral intervention like
the one developed by Dr. Blanchard can successfully
decrease symptoms of PTSD and improve functioning
in individuals who have survived a motor vehicle
accident. There is also preliminary data showing
positive clinical outcomes in individuals who
have used Internet-based assessment and treatment
for problem areas such as headache, panic disorder,
substance abuse, weight loss, and smoking cessation.”
Stress Management Key to Treating
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the condition
doctoral student Kathryn Sanders seeks to alleviate
with her self-managed therapy program. Studies
estimate that 11 to 22 percent of Americans suffer
from IBS, a gastrointestinal disorder with symptoms
that include abdominal pain and tenderness accompanied
by either diarrhea, constipation or both. IBS
affects roughly twice as many women as men, and
as much as $25 billion is spent annually on treating
symptoms. No drug therapy currently is available.
For her treatment, Sanders utilizes the book Breaking
the Bonds of Irritable Bowel Syndrome,
by therapist Barbara Bradley-Bolen.
"Our goal," said Sanders, "is
to help improve patients' health and quality of
life through stress management. Patients will
ultimately learn to deal with their stress, and
with this self-managed therapy they can also learn
to manage their IBS symptoms now and for the future."
Also included in her proposed therapy is an initial
assessment by a trained clinician, homework based
on the book, and the study of individual diet
and various relaxation and stress management techniques,
plus various follow-up contacts.
"These students are on the cutting edge
of what could be a revolution in the treatment
of certain conditions," said Blanchard. "But
they're not developing radical alternative therapies.
They're researching interventions that are based
on traditional theories of therapy, but divert
from tradition in ways that make alleviating patients'
symptoms accessible, comfortable, widely available,
and inexpensive, while still benefiting from the
support of a qualified counselor."