Psychosomatic symptoms: a contemporary psychotherapeutic exploration

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Bustarviejo, Laura
Issue Date
BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) “somatization disorder is characterised by at least four unexplained pain symptoms, two unexplained non-pain gastrointestinal symptoms, one unexplained sexual or menstrual symptom, and one pseudo-neurological symptom” (as cited in Egan & Kenny, 2011, p. 93). People that suffer from these symptoms are immersed in a continued use of primary care services. This can be a very overwhelming process when there is pain or sickness but no apparent medical solution. The literature review explored how contemporary psychotherapy treats psychosomatic pain and illness. This exploration was approached by presenting different psychotherapeutic theories from Freud and Lacan to Object Relations Theory. These theories give an understanding of where these symptoms come from and which are the best psychological treatments. The aim of this research was to explore how psychotherapists from different modalities comprising Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psychodynamic, Body Center Therapy and Integrative Therapy, work with psychosomatic symptoms. To achieve this, five accredited psychotherapists were interviewed following a semi-structured interview through which the use of open questions allowed the exploration of their underlying themes. A qualitative approach was chosen in order to gain a deep understanding of the experience of these psychotherapists working with psychosomatic clients. The findings were compared with the literature review for validation of the themes. Some recommendations for further research have been added in order to continue this research which is very broad and complex.