The Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Fibromyalgia

By Jan Warner LISWS, PhD

Studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered to be the gold standard, or in other words, the most accurate available means of psychological treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, according to compilation of multiple studies and combined data from randomized controlled trials of CBT, this method of therapy has been known to be effective for chronic pain in adults as well. (Morley, Eccleston, Williams, 1999). Bernardy, Füber, Köllner, Häuser (2010) conducted these studies, along with Random Control Trials (RCT) on the use of CBT in treating psychological symptoms of Fibromyalgia (FM) and found that CBT reduced depression and increased coping for those with FM. Moreover, further data suggests CBT was found to be effective for easing these symptoms in additional compilations of studies conducted by Glombiewski, Sawyer, Gutermann, Koenig (2010) and by Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer (2012), as well as a single study regarding CBT and FM by Bennett and Nelson (2006).

Likewise, CBT was found to be effective in both internet interventions and face-to-face therapy sessions concerning psychiatric and mental illnesses which cause one or more bodily symptoms, including pain (Andersson, et al., 2014). In fact, both the Association of the Scientific Medical Society of Germany and the American Pain Society report recommended treatment procedures for FM patients (Bellato et al., 2012). They suggest the “highest level of recommendation” (Bellatto et al., 2012, p. 6) for treatment consists of “aerobic exercise, CBT, amitriptyline, and multicomponent therapy.”


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Bellato, E., Marini, E., Castoldi, F., Barbasetti, N., Mattei, L., Bonasia, D. E., & Blonna, D. (2012). Fibromyalgia syndrome: Etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment. Pain Research and Treatment, 2012 , 1-17. doi:10.1155/2012/426130

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Bernardy, K., Füber, N., Köllner, V., & Häuser, W. (2010). Efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapies in fibromyalgia syndrome—A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The Journal of Rheumatology, 37 (10), 1991-2005. doi:10.38


Glombiewski, J., Sawyer, A., Gutermann, J., Koenig, K., Rief, W., & Hofmann, S. (2010). Psychological treatments for fibromyalgia: A meta-analysis. Pain, 151 (2), 280-295.

Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36 (5), 427-440. doi:10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1

Morley, S., Eccleston, C., & Williams, A. (1999). Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of cognitive behaviour therapy and behaviour therapy for chronic pain in adults, excluding headache. Pain, 80(1-2), 1-13.

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