Unmanageable IBS? Home-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Improves Symptoms

iStock.com/Pornpak Khunatorn

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can help address the underlying symptoms of inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Findings from a study published in Gastroenterology suggest that home-based CBT may be just as effective as intensive clinic-based CBT in treating patients with unmanageable symptoms.

To investigate the effectiveness of home-based CBT, researchers randomly assigned 436 patients to one of three groups:

  • 10 weeks of 60-minute clinic visits (standard CBT)
  • 10 weeks of CBT but with four clinic visits plus home study to cover the same material as weekly clinic visits, or
  • four weeks of IBS education plus home study material over 10 weeks but with no therapy.

The CBT groups were counseled on brain-gut interactions, recognizing triggers and procedures for dealing with symptoms either in-person or as home study material.

Both groups randomized to CBT had greater symptom improvement than the education group, but it didn’t matter much whether they received the intensive clinic-based therapy or the home-based therapy. Improvement was strong but not complete and was measured together with the medications patients had been taking for IBS.

The study results, published in 2018, suggest that you could get just as much out of home-based CBT with a minimal investment of time and other resources.