Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2014 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Uses based on scientific evidence
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.
Psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapy may reduce depression associated with adjustment disorder.
Aggressive behavior (adults)
Psychodynamic group therapy and cognitive-behavior group therapy may reduce aggression in male veterans with a history of committing assault.
Aggressive behavior (children)
Individual, group, and family therapy may help aggressive youth reduce the severity of anger problems.
Psychotherapy may improve outcome, prevent relapse, improve sexual and social adjustment, and encourage weight gain in patients with anorexia nervosa.
Family psychotherapy may slightly improve wheezing and thoracic gas volume for children with asthma.
Child-parent psychotherapy may improve quality of attachment (ability of young children to bond or interact appropriately) and social-emotional functioning of anxiously attached infants and toddlers of depressed mothers. Preventative psychotherapy for parents might reduce occurrence of impaired neurological development of very low birth weight, premature infants.
Bulimia (binge eating)
Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, may help bulimics reduce binge eating, purging and relapse, and improve dietary restraint and attitudes towards body shape and weight. Prescription medication may be used with psychotherapy, but may not be as successful alone.
Cancer (quality of life)
There is good evidence that psychotherapy can enhance cancer patients' quality of life by reducing emotional distress and aiding in coping with the stresses and challenges of cancer. Therapy may be supportive-expressive therapy, cognitive therapy, or group therapy. Studies conflict on whether therapy improves self-esteem, death anxiety, self-satisfaction, etc. While some patients seek psychotherapy in hopes of extending survival, there is no conclusive evidence on its effects on medical prognosis.
Conversion disorder (motor type)
Hypnosis-based psychotherapy may improve the behavioral symptoms of patients with conversion disorder, motor type.
Depression (ante- and postpartum)
Group therapy may reduce the risk of postpartum depression in high-risk women. Psychotherapy plus standard antenatal care may reduce the occurrence of depression for up to three months. Interpersonal psychotherapy may be an effective method in treating antepartum and postpartum depression, particularly for women who are breastfeeding and cannot use pharmacotherapy.
Psychotherapy may help treat depressed adolescent patients. Cognitive behavior therapy may be more effective for depressed adolescents than other types of therapy.
Psychotherapy may be beneficial for patients with dysthymia (chronic low-grade depression). Group therapy may be as effective as individual therapy. However, in more severe cases, medication is also recommended.
Psychotherapy may help treat seniors with depression. In some cases, prescription anti-depressants with psychotherapy may be helpful.
A broad range of psychotherapies are effective for the treatment of depression, including behavior therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and interpersonal therapy. Brief dynamic therapy, marital therapy, and family therapy may work best, depending on the patient's problems and circumstances. Prescription medication may also be helpful for persistent, recurring depression.
Depression (mild to moderate)
Psychotherapy may be successful in treating mild to moderate depression. In more severe cases, psychotherapy is best accompanied by prescription medication.
Generalized anxiety disorder
Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, may decrease the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Treatment may also include prescription medication.
Behavioral marital therapy and insight-oriented marital therapy may decrease marital distress. Marital therapy in conjunction with anti-depressants may also be helpful for depressed people.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapy used with prescription medications may lead to substantial improvement. However, a patient may still have moderate OCD symptoms, even following adequate treatment.
Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, may help patients with panic disorder. Prescription medications may also be helpful in some cases.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Various forms of cognitive behavior therapy may be very helpful for patients with posttraumatic stress disorder. Group therapy may not be as effective as individual therapy.
Although group therapy may somewhat decrease pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis and depression, individual therapy coupled with anti-depressants may be more effective.
Although prescription medication is usually the best way to help patients with schizophrenia, psychotherapy, especially cognitive therapy, may greatly enhance coping, social skills training, social functioning, and quality of life, at the same time reducing psychotic relapse and re-hospitalization.
Sex abuse (adult survivors)
Women with post-traumatic stress symptoms related to childhood sexual abuse may decrease their symptoms slightly more with cognitive-behavioral therapy than present-centered therapy.
Sex abuse (child survivors)
Psychotherapy may be helpful for children who are sexually abused. Group therapy and individual therapy may be equally effective, although individual therapy may address post-traumatic stress symptoms more effectively.
Psychotherapy may be very effective at reducing repeated attempts at suicide, suicidal thoughts, and depression. However, different mental illnesses may respond better or more quickly to a specific type of psychotherapy.
Several studies indicate that people who are overweight or obese may benefit from behavioral and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy in combination with diet and exercise.
Several studies indicate that psychotherapy in the elderly may improve psychological well-being and decrease self-rated depression, especially for those in individual therapy.
Psychotherapy, or a combination of psychotherapy and prescription medication, may help alcohol abuse patients prevent relapse, overcome withdrawal symptoms, and deal with underlying problems, depression, or anxiety.
Alexithymia and coronary heart disease
Alexithymia, or the inability to express one's feelings, may influence the course of coronary heart disease (CHD). Educational sessions and group psychotherapy may decrease alexithymia and reduce cardiac events.
Children ages 8-15 who maintain active involvement in therapy may respond well to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. More study is needed in this area.
Atopic dermatitis is a skin disease associated with an increased anxiety level. Psychotherapy may be helpful for atopic dermatitis patients with high levels of anxiety.
One small trial showed that psychotherapy may be more effective than either a bed-wetting alarm or rewards in terms of children failing or relapsing. In another study, psychotherapy and a placebo was just as effective as psychotherapy combined with piracetam and diphenylhydantoin, suggesting that psychotherapy may be used before drugs.
Prescription medication is the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy may help patients take their medication, prevent relapses, and reduce suicidal behavior.
Borderline personality disorder
Psychotherapy may help patients with borderline personality disorders. Both schema-focused therapy and transference-focused psychotherapy may be helpful psychotherapy techniques. These patients usually need one to three years of therapy before they begin to see clinical improvement.
Cognitive behavioral psychotherapy and cognitive remediation appear to lessen psychological distress and improve cognitive functioning among patients with traumatic brain injury. More study is warranted in this area.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Psychotherapy for patients with COPD may decrease anxiety and depression, but it does not seem to improve physical performance.
Cognitive enhancement (language proficiency in children)
Child therapy may improve children's language proficiencies, and individual therapy may be more successful than group therapy. Further research in this area is needed.
Psychotherapy may not improve the course of Crohn's disease, although patients undergoing psychotherapy tended to have fewer operations and relapses. More research in this area is needed.
Depression (multiple sclerosis)
Telephone-administered cognitive-behavioral therapy may help treat depressed multiple sclerosis patients, although more study is needed in this area.
Depression (substance abuse)
Psychotherapy may help treat substance-dependent depressed patients, but combining psychotherapy and prescription medication may be helpful in patients failing to respond to psychotherapy alone.
Diabetes mellitus type 1
Psychotherapy may improve blood sugar control in teens and adults with poorly-controlled type I diabetes, especially if blood sugar problems are related to depression. However, more studies are needed to confirm this.
Diabetes mellitus type 2
Cognitive behavior therapy may reduce depression and improve blood sugar level control in patients with type II diabetes. Therapy may be less effective in people with diabetes complications or poorly-controlled blood sugar levels. More studies are needed to make definitive recommendations.
Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, may help patients stop drug use and reduce relapses. Combination treatment of psychotherapy and certain medications is sometimes more effective than psychotherapy alone. Group therapy may be more effective than individual therapy.
Short-term cognitive psychotherapy may not reduce the long-term recurrence of duodenal ulcers. More research is needed in this area.
Psychodynamic-interpersonal psychotherapy therapy or cognitive psychotherapy may improve dyspepsia symptoms, both short- and long-term, in patients with mild to moderate dyspepsia, but further evaluation is required.
Supportive psychotherapy may reduce psychiatric symptoms of patients with emphysema. More research needs to be done in this area.
Individual, couples, or group psychotherapy may be helpful for men with erectile dysfunction. However, prescription medication may be needed to alleviate symptoms.
Psychotherapy may help patients deal with mourning and mental health issues associated with major grief. In severe cases, prescription medication may also be recommended in combination with psychotherapy with grief-related depression.
Psychotherapy, especially supportive psychotherapy, may reduce depression or coping in HIV-positive patients. It may also help with treating substance abuse when used in combination with prescription medicine. Supportive-expressive group therapy may also have concomitant improvements in CD4 cell count and viral load. More research is needed in this area, especially to determine the best type of psychotherapy.
HIV (peripheral neuropathic pain)
Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavior therapy, may improve pain-related functioning in people with HIV-related peripheral neuropathic pain. More research needs to be done in this area.
Group and individual/couple psychotherapy may reduce depression and anxiety associated with infertility. However, psychotherapy may not improve fertility rates. More and better-designed studies are needed in this area.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Psychotherapy may increase IBS patients' tolerance to rectal distension, improve health-related quality of life, and reduce stomach pain and diarrhea. Hypnotherapy may be more successful than other forms of psychotherapy in improving IBS symptoms. Medications for depression may also be helpful for depressed patients with IBS. More studies are needed in this area.
Although individual and group psychotherapy may decrease depression associated with a kidney transplant, individual therapy may be more effective than group therapy. More research needs to be done in this area.
There is conflicting evidence as to whether or not brief supportive-expressive group psychotherapy reduces psychological distress and medical symptoms and improves the quality of life of women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Further studies are needed to draw clear conclusions.
Psychotherapy, including group therapy and individual cognitive-behavioral therapy, may reduce major depression in multiple sclerosis patients and improve their quality of life. More research is needed to verify these preliminary results.
Non-ulcer dyspepsia (NUD)
There is insufficient evidence to confirm the efficacy of psychological intervention in NUD.
Psychotherapy may reduce pain, including chronic pain, low back pain, and pain associated with pelvic congestion. In some cases, psychotherapy combined with medication may be more effective. More research needs to be done in this area.
Personality development (disorders)
Preliminary studies suggest that psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavior therapy may be more effective treatments of personality disorders than other forms of psychotherapy. Personality disorders are difficult to treat but may respond to psychotherapy with a well-trained clinician who specializes in this area.
Cognitive behavioral therapy involving exposure to phobic stimuli, and focused on changing phobic thinking, benefits many patients, both at the end of treatment and after treatment. Exposure-based therapies are the most successful for phobic disorders. Prescription medication may be used along with therapy. More studies are needed in this area.
Based on one study, cognitively oriented psychotherapy for early psychosis (COPE) showed no beneficial treatment effect over the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC). More study is needed to draw a firm conclusion.
Short-term psychotherapy for psychosomatic conditions may not be as effective as long-term. More research needs to be done to evaluate these approaches.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Psychotherapy may help seasonal affective disorder. Further study is needed to confirm early results.
Brief personal construct psychotherapy may be effective for people who self-harm and merits further exploration.
Several studies suggest that group therapy may be more effective than self-help for quitting smoking. However, there is not enough evidence to show that group therapy is as effective or cost-effective as intensive individual counseling. More research is needed to determine effectiveness.
Studies show mixed results about the efficacy of cognitive behavioral psychotherapy for depression following stroke. More research needs to be done in this area.
Supportive psychotherapy may or may not reduce the motor and vocal tics associated with Tourette's syndrome. More research needs to be done before recommendations can be made.
People with detrusor instability or sensory urgency may benefit from psychotherapy and reduce urgency, incontinence, and nighttime urination, but probably not overall frequency. More research is needed in this area.
Based on one study, brief psychotherapeutic approaches dos not help improve cognitive function and overall well-being in Alzheimer's disease patients. More studies are needed in this area.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (children)
Psychotherapy may not improve parenting, enhance academic achievement, or improve emotional adjustment for children ages 7-9 with ADHD. It is unclear whether psychotherapy will reduce the use of stimulants, such as methylphenidate, in these children. More studies are needed in this area.
Several studies suggest that patients with psychotic depression are probably not good candidates for psychotherapy and that medication remains the optimal treatment. More research is needed to determine how psychotherapy might be of benefit in psychotic depression.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
For full grading rationale, click here.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional
Abuse/neglect, addiction (gambling, promiscuity, kleptomania), adolescent rebellion, affective disorder, aging, amnesia, anger, antisocial behavior, antisocial personality disorder, autism, cognitive disorders, communication disorder, death and dying, delirium, dementia, depersonalization disorder, dissociative disorder, dissociative fugue, dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder), dual diagnoses, eating disorders (coprophagia, eating feces), educational problems, empty nest syndrome, encopresis, episodic control disorder, exhibitionism, factitious disorder, fear, fetishism, hypertension (high blood pressure), hysteria, hypochondriasis, identity/self efficacy, impaired self image (body dysmorphic disorder), impulse control disorder, impulse problems, insomnia, malingering, mania, mental retardation, mood disorders, movement disorders (psychogenic), narcissistic personality disorder, narcolepsy, obsession, pain (complex regional pain syndrome), painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), paranoia, paranoid personality disorder, paraphilias, pedophilia, premature ejaculation, psoriasis, pyromania, relationship problems, sadness, schizophrenia, sexual arousal, sexual disorders, sexual function in women, sleep disorders, somatization disorder, somatoform disorder, stress, substance-induced mood disorder, substance-induced psychotic disorder, substance-induced sexual dysfunction, tantrums, transvestism, trauma, trichotillomania, urogenitary disorders, violent and other antisocial behaviors, voyeurism.
Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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