Background: Research has shown that Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) can effectively decrease pain intensity and improve quality of life in patients with medically unexplained pain.
Objective: Understanding that not all patients with medically unexplained pain have access to in-person ISTDP, this study aims to investigate the efficacy of an Internet-delivered ISTDP for individuals with medically unexplained pain using Skype in comparison with treatment as usual.
Method: In this randomized controlled trial, 100 patients were randomly allocated into Internet-delivered ISTDP (n = 50) and treatment-as- usual (n = 50) groups. Treatment intervention consisted of 16 weekly, hour-long therapy sessions. The primary outcome was perceived pain assessed using the Numeric Pain Rating Scale. The secondary outcome included Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21, Emotion Regulation Questionnaire, Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, and Quality-of-Life Inventory. Blind assessments were conducted at the baseline, posttreatment, and at a 6-month follow-up.
Results: In the intention-to-treat analysis, pain symptoms in the intervention group were significantly reduced (p < 0.001), whereas a reduction was not observed in the treatment as usual group (p = 0.651). Moreover, there were significant decreases in depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as a greater increase in emotion regulation functioning, mindfulness, and quality of life observed in the intervention group 6 months after the treatment compared with the treatment as usual condition.
Conclusion: The results of this pilot trial demonstrate that 16 weeks of ISTDP delivered by Skype can significantly improve pain intensity and clinical symptoms of medically unexplained pain.
Keywords: intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy; medically unexplained pain; somatization; telemedicine.
Copyright © 2016 The Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.