Hypnosis intervention shows promise in treating ALS patients and their caregivers

Quality of life and psychological status among ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) patients and their caregivers may be enhanced with psychodynamic-based hypnosis, given the findings from a recent study.

Expanding upon previous research, the team of researchers, led by Dr. Johann Kleinbum from the University of Padova in Italy, were interested in applying “hypnosis-based intervention to a broader ALS group, investigating the longitudinal, long-term effects of intervention on patients and their caregivers, and taking into account the impact on disease progression as well as the influence of individual aspects.”

Participants in the study were assessed for anxiety and depression, hypnotizability, quality of life indicators and functional status. Additionally, given the psychodynamic oriented perspective of the study, defense mechanisms were also assessed to indicate how defensive style may mediate the impact of ALS.

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that all the 15 ALS patients were able to enter either a mild or moderate hypnoidal state at the end four hypnotic sessions.

Immediately after hypnosis treatment, ALS patients demonstrated a reduction in both anxiety and depression, with a reduction in anxiety persisting after 3 and 6 months post treatment; depression levels returned to baseline 3 months post treatment. Quality of life indicators noted slight improvement at both the end of treatment and after 3 months.

Immediately after treatment, when compared to the control group of ALS patients, the treatment group showed improvement in perceived secondary physical symptoms (such as pain and emotional lability), and slower functionality loss.

Among caregivers, which included 12 spouses and three daughters, a reduction in anxiety and depression persisted 6 months after the study.

Interestingly, researchers found that more primitive defense mechanisms were heavily relied upon by both ALS patients and their caregivers, most notably, maladaptive defenses such as projection, and image distorting defenses such as denial. The research team notes the use of these defense mechanisms serve as a “buffer” against psychopathological symptoms.

As a result of the study, researchers noted the implications for clinical practice, suggesting that “patients and caregivers should be aware that hypnotic interventions conjunctly to training in self-hypnosis are relatively easy and inexpensive to provide, and have a plethora of beneficial ‘side effects.’ We hope our findings could represents (sic) a helpful step in the construction of ‘best clinical practice,’ to better manage psychic and physical plagues imposed by ALS disease to patients and their families.”

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