Development and evaluation of a mindfulness- based stress reduction self-help intervention for patients with medically unexplained symptoms
McLaren, Sarah Abigail
Background: Alongside experiencing physical symptoms with no identifiable organic cause, patients with MUS commonly experience comorbid anxiety and depression. They also have high health utilisation costs, which has implications for the health service. Interventions which target these symptoms in a cost effective way need to be developed and evaluated. Objective: To develop and evaluate a self-help mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) intervention for patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). Methods: A systematic review of the literature was carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of MBSR for reducing psychological distress in people with MUS. Study 1 developed and evaluated a self-help MBSR intervention in a clinical setting. Fifteen participants were recruited from eight practice, however only five completed post-intervention measures. A combination of t-tests and descriptive statistics were used to compare changes in levels of psychological distress, quality of life, symptoms and mindfulness at post-intervention. Pearson‘s correlations were used to identify relationships between improvements in mindfulness and improvements in outcomes. Study 2, exploring the reasons for the difficulties recruiting participants to Study 1, was then carried out through questionnaires to GPs. Results: Though more evidence is needed, the systematic review found MBSR to have moderate effects on psychological distress, which are largely maintained or improved at follow-up. Study 1 found symptom frequency and levels of acceptance to have improved at post-intervention. Study 2 found that the main reasons for GPs not recruiting participants was that they were busy and found it difficult to prioritise given other demands. Conclusions: Evidence to date suggests that MBSR is an effective intervention for patients with MUS. Future studies may benefit from recruiting participants from relevant organisations or using alternative methods such as database searches. No firm conclusions can be made about the self-help MBSR intervention‘s efficacy due to the study‘s limitations, however changes seen in the completer group suggest that further research would be warranted.