The acceptability of psychological treatment in patients with medically unexplained physical symptoms.
Speckens AE., van Hemert AM., Bolk JH., Hawton KE., Rooijmans HG.
Patients with unexplained physical symptoms are considered to benefit from psychological treatment, but are believed to be reluctant to accept a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist. As a part of a treatment study, we had the opportunity to examine to what extent somatising patients are willing to accept psychological treatment and how patients who are willing to accept it differ from those who are not. The study was introduced to the patient by the attending physician, and the treatment took place in the general medical outpatient clinic itself. Of 229 patients who had presented with unexplained physical symptoms to a general hospital medical outpatient clinic, 172 (75%) were interviewed at about three months after their initial visit to the clinic. Fourty-five (26%) patients appeared to have either improved or recovered from their presenting symptoms, and 26 (15%) were already receiving psychiatric or psychological treatment. Of 98 patients eligible for treatment, 79 (81%) were willing to participate. Compared with the patients who agreed to take part, the nonparticipants reported lower levels of physical symptoms and less functional impairment. In conclusion, most of the patients who might have benefitted from additional psychological help were willing to accept it. Somatising patients who rejected psychological treatment were those with the least serious problems.