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Therapy may help alleviate some symptoms of traumatic brain injury

When someone suffers a serious injury, it is often times easy to focus on symptoms that are easily observable. Unfortunately, for those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, the most severe symptoms can sometimes be emotional or cognitive, which can make it difficult to develop an effective treatment strategy. Of course, just because a TBI symptom, such as depression, may not be obvious, it does not mean that the problem is any less serious or causes any less pain.

Thankfully, researchers are discovering therapies that can help alleviate some symptoms of traumatic brain injuries. According to a study recently published at the 21st European Congress of Psychiatry, researchers at Lakehead University and St. Joseph’s Care Group in Thunder Bay, Canada have demonstrated the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in treating depression in those with TBIs.

MBCT is a hybrid psychological therapy that is designed to help patients avoid a relapse of depression. The therapy includes both traditional cognitive elements – that is, educating the patient about depression – and newer mindfulness-based techniques. These mindfulness-based techniques can include, for example, meditation to better understand and control one’s reaction to certain stimuli or events.

The Canadian study involved randomly selected patients, most of which had suffered TBIs in either falls or motor vehicle accidents. Half were assigned to the MBCT group and half were assigned to the control group. Doctors had 10 weekly sessions with each MBCT patient, lasting one and a half hours each. Therapy sessions focused on symptoms most commonly associated with TBI, including fatigue, loss of memory, inability to concentrate and other issues. Doctors provided patients with materials to facilitate meditation and encouraged them to meditate for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day.

Researchers discovered that those who received MBCT experienced a significant reduction in overall depression symptoms, as compared to those in the control group. These improvements continued for three months after therapy ended, which was the maximum follow-up period specified by the study.

Though the findings of the study are somewhat limited – most notably, the study had a particularly small sample size – researchers are hopeful that their work could lead to effective treatment options for those suffering from TBIs. The study’s authors are specifically interested in evaluating whether patients receiving MBCT continue to improve for a period longer than three months after therapy ends. The goal is to help those with TBIs conquer their symptoms and live healthier, happier lives.

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