Sunday January 26, 2020

Simple Therapy Proves to be Effective in Helping Women against Gender-Based Violence: Study

It is estimated that more than a third of women around the world have been exposed to such violence

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Gender-based violence
Women gather at a clinic at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province, June 8, 2009. VOA
  • An intervention based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was more effective than traditional therapy in helping women struggling with gender-based violence
  • WHO will begin distributing the treatment more broadly to areas with little mental health infrastructure
  • cognitive behavioral therapists work to reveal thoughts and behaviors that currently contribute to a patient’s troubles

US, August 17, 2017: An intervention based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was found to be more effective than traditional therapy in helping women struggling with depression or anxiety after experiencing gender-based violence, research shows. It is estimated that more than a third of women around the world have been exposed to such violence, which includes rape, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.

The intervention, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to help anyone facing adversity, had already been proven effective for Pakistanis struggling emotionally after exposure to terrorism.

Psychologist Richard Bryant at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, developed the program with colleagues there and others from WHO and the World Vision Institute. To test its effectiveness, 421 women in Nairobi, Kenya, were treated with either five sessions of the CBT program administered by a lay health care worker or were referred to area health care centers for standard treatment administered by nurses.

The nurses had four more years of education than the lay workers, who had no previous experience with mental health care. A program simple enough for lay volunteers to administer is important in areas with little mental health infrastructure.

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Reducing symptoms

The study, published Tuesday in PLOS Medicine, found that women who received the CBT treatment showed 20 percent fewer anxious and depressive symptoms five weeks after the end of treatment than the control group, and 45 percent fewer than they did before treatment. Following this work, WHO will begin distributing the treatment more broadly to areas with little mental health infrastructure.

“The vast majority of people in the world don’t get access to evidence-based care for mental health problems,” Bryant told VOA. “So there really is, from a global mental health perspective, an urgent need to have a different way of thinking about how we deliver care. And we can’t be relying on specialists. We can’t be relying on lengthy sessions, lengthy treatment durations. We can’t be relying on systems that require long trainings to upskill people.”

CBT was developed in the 1970s. Unlike psychoanalysis, which aims to reveal the historical, root causes for a patient’s problems, cognitive behavioral therapists work to reveal thoughts and behaviors that currently contribute to a patient’s troubles.

Bryant said this particular intervention was designed to be as easy to administer as possible and focuses on changing behavior. The WHO treatment coaches patients to be active, engage in social networks, and problem solve. Bryant said much of the cognitive side of CBT was left out, not only to make it easier to train practitioners but also to make the intervention shorter. That allows treating more people with less money. Traveling to treatment can be expensive and dangerous in many places, and missing work is costly, so a treatment that requires fewer sessions is beneficial to patients.

Avoiding stigma

One challenge in helping people who have been exposed to gender-based violence is finding them. Rape and abuse carry a heavy stigma, and it can be dangerous for women to speak out.

Consequently, the program wasn’t advertised as being about gender-based violence. Researchers instead looked for women experiencing anxiety and depression. However, during treatment, they found that four out of five participants had experienced some form of gender-based violence — most often from an intimate partner.

“Really, I think what this tells us is that when you go to many of these settings where we know that gender-based violence and other forms of violence are so prevalent, you can actually assist these people — alleviate many of their mental health problems in an effective way — without actually creating the problems of identifying them and exacerbating the social stigma,” Bryant said.

Since the completion of the study in 2015, 1,400 volunteer counselors in Kenya have been trained in CBT, and 3,500 women have received the treatment.

Researchers in Australia have been leaders in CBT, Bryant said. In the early 2000s, researchers at Australian National University developed MoodGYM, free software that allows anyone with an internet connection to receive online CBT treatment at any time.

Numerous studies have shown that patients who complete internet-delivered CBT fare as well as those who receive treatment in person. However, those self-administering CBT without external encouragement are much less likely to complete a full course of treatment. (VOA)

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Blue Light Exposure Therapy may Heal Traumatic Brain Injury: Study

Blue light therapy may heal mild traumatic brain injury

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Blue Light therapy brain
Blue light exposure therapy can aid the healing process of people impact by mild traumatic brain injury. Pixabay

Early morning blue light exposure therapy can aid the healing process of people impact by mild traumatic brain injury, according to new research.

“Daily exposure to blue wavelength light each morning helps to re-entrain the circadian rhythm so that people get better, more regular sleep. This is likely true for everybody, but we recently demonstrated it in people recovering from mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI,” said study lead author William D Scott Killgore from University of Arizona in the US.

“That improvement in sleep was translated into improvements in cognitive function, reduced daytime sleepiness and actual brain repair,” Killgore added.

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Blue light therapy suppresses brain production of a chemical called melatonin. Pixabay

Mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions, are often the result of falls, fights, car accidents and sports participation.

Headaches, attention problems and mental fogginess are commonly reported after head injuries and can persist for weeks or months for some people.

According to the study published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, few effective treatments for mTBI exist.

Recent research has shown that the brain repairs itself during sleep, so the resarch team sought to determine if improved sleep led to a faster recovery.

In a randomised clinical trial, adults with mTBI used a cube-like device that shines bright blue light (with a peak wavelength of 469 nm) at participants from their desk or tables for 30 minutes early each morning for six weeks.

Control groups were exposed to bright amber light.

“Blue light suppresses brain production of a chemical called melatonin,” Killgore said.

“You don’t want melatonin in the morning because it makes you drowsy and prepares the brain to sleep. When you are exposed to blue light in the morning, it shifts your brain’s biological clock so that in the evening, your melatonin will kick in earlier and help you to fall asleep and stay asleep,” Killgore added.

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Blue Light therapy leads to an improved sleep. Pixabay

People get the most restorative sleep when it aligns with their natural circadian rhythm of melatonin – the body’s sleep-wake cycle associated with night and day.

“If we can get you sleeping regularly, at the same time each day, that’s much better because the body and the brain can more effectively coordinate all these repair processes,” Killgore added.

As a result of the blue light treatment, participants fell asleep and woke an average of one hour earlier than before the trial and were less sleepy during the daytime.

Participants improved their speed and efficiency in brain processing and showed an increase in volume in the pulvinar nucleus, an area of the brain responsible for visual attention.

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Neural connections and communication flow between the pulvinar nucleus and other parts of the brain that drive alertness and cognition were also strengthened, the study said.

“We think we’re facilitating brain healing by promoting better sleep and circadian alignment, and as these systems heal, these brain areas are communicating with each other more effectively. That could be what’s translating into improvements in cognition and less daytime sleepiness,” Killgore said. (IANS)