The study in question involved 104 children aged seven to 18 who had experienced chronic stomach aches for a period of around three years.
Half of the children were randomly assigned to attend six weekly CBT sessions, while the remaining half would meet six times a week with a paediatrician.
Each CBT session was tailored to the individual needs of each child, with some including relaxation exercises to distract the children from their pain, or to change their perception of pain.
In contrast, during the paediatrician appointments doctors would talk with the children and their parents about diet, and would also issue advice to continue on with school and daily activities as normal. Medication was also prescribed if needed.
One year after the treatment had ended, 60 per cent of the children in the CBT group had experienced fewer or no stomach aches compared to 56 per cent in the group who had seen a paediatrician.
This is not the first trial to find that CBT is effective in these kinds of situations, and a growing body of evidence is continuing to emerge that supports this theory.
Speaking of CBT, Paul Robins, a paediatric psychologist from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said: “What we’re teaching kids are techniques that help regulate affect and help regulate stress reactions and help them cope with pain, as well as help them return to their normal activities.”
While the study didn’t include any data for children who were not treated at all (so it’s unclear how many would have got better without seeing a therapist or paediatrician), the results show that talk therapy is just as effective as standard doctor visits. What is really great about this news is that a session with a therapist is more feasible and less expensive than regular meetings with a paediatrician or specialist.