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CBT & GET – my experience

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CBT & GET – My Experience

To follow up on the recent post on CBT and GET – I thought I would share my experiences of this. I imagine people’s experiences will vary widely.
These 2 treatments are still the main recommended treatments today – here in the UK and also in the US (as I learned last week).
My understanding is that they have helped very few people with CFS or ME – and many have reported that GET actually made them worse.

CBT = Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
GET = Graded Exercise Therapy

CBT :
This is a talking psychological treatment with a therapist, counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
In my case it was with a clinical psychologist in Glasgow in 2004. There was a long waiting list for this – I waited around 9 months.
Well we now know that this does not work for CFS or ME – as it is a psychological treatment aimed at curing a physical condition.
To be honest, my experience of it was reasonable all the same. Compared to many other stories I have heard.
The psychologist was very nice and easy to talk to. He put no pressure on me to feel I should be trying harder and seeking another full-time job. By 2003 my health had forced me to resign from 3 jobs. One after 20 years, next after 1 year, and final one (part-time) after 4 years. And I had left with nothing at all financially – even after 20 years in the main job. So I was feeling a bit of a failure without doubt at that time.
Being able to talk and being listened to and encouraged did help me a lot on an emotional level. (Especially after what felt like brutal treatment and lack of help from a previous GP over more than 12 years.)
However it was no help at all with my CFS. It did nothing to cure it – impossible as we now know. And nothing much to improve it either.

GET :
My experience of this was just silly and a total waste of time.
I was referred to an exercise therapist who was based in a sports centre in Glasgow south-side in March 2003.
The first thing I remember that seemed stupid was I had to fill out a questionnaire – but it was full of questions about your mood, etc. Whereas I had been expecting questions about everyday stuff I found hard – eg. Housework. Or physical activities. By the end of the questionnaire my mood had certainly gone downhill – it had made me feel a bit stressed. As the questions bore no relation to the problems I was having day to day.
Next (after a short chat with the therapist) I was set exercise targets for a month. A combination of outdoor walks and using a sky walker (or elliptical trainer) I had at home. I was to do these every day. And I had activity charts to record my progress – with space for ratings and any comments. The ratings ranged from 8 (very easy) to 15 (very hard & unable to speak).
For the 1st month my ratings were all 14-15. But with no comments. It got no easier – and by the end of the 6th month my ratings were all 15 and I had even added some 16s. Plus I had a lot of comments too by this stage, eg. Felt sick, felt dizzy, felt shaky, back sore after, etc. Basically it was making me worse – but I couldn’t see it at the time.
The therapist phoned me after the 1st month. I said Yes I was sticking to the targets but it was very hard and I wasn’t any better. She said something vague like “well never mind, just keep going . . .” And changed the arrangement so that I was to phone her after month 2 with my “progress”. I didn’t bother to phone her back as she didn’t seem very knowledgeable or helpful. And couldn’t answer any questions I had asked. (She was probably glad I didn’t phone back !)
But I did keep pushing on with it as has always been my way. Although very stupid in this case. Then eventually gave in and just stopped.
I do realise that I was very lucky that the GET didn’t push me into a severe relapse though – as has been the case with others. And I was also lucky that my therapist was fairly uninterested – as many others have been pushed on too far by over-zealous therapists.

My thoughts now :
GET should be abolished. And CBT only offered as a complimentary treatment.

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CBT & GET used in US too

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CBT & GET

In my Reasons For Blog post I mentioned the treatment (or mistreatment) of people with CFS and ME has become a national and world-wide scandal. And it feels that almost every week something else happens to emphasise this.

2 things this week :

1) The #MEinsults timeline that took off on Twitter.

2) The CFS Advisory Committee meeting in the USA

I will just cover (2) in this post.

I didn’t know much about this until I saw a message on twitter. To explain :

The CFSAC are the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee in the US. They provide advice and recommendations to HHS.gov (the Dept of Health and Human Services) on issues relating to CFS and ME.
They met a few days ago to listen to presentations and submissions from people involved with CFS & ME – including sufferers themselves (or their representatives). One of the recommendations made from a mother of a severely affected sufferer was that use of The Toolkit should be stopped with immediate effect.
I didn’t know what this was. Now I read it I see it is the recommended treatment and uses GET (graded exercise therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).
Just like the UK.
Unbelievably the AC have now decided to continue using the Toolkit despite the impassioned plea against it. Very depressing. There are millions of sufferers in the US and this means no new hope for them.

GET has been described as a type of torture for people who are very ill. For others it ranges from being no use at all to making their condition much worse. And even pushing them from a mild or moderate state (both still very bad) – into the much worse severe or very severe level. There seem to be very few people helped by it, if any. Yet it is still one of the two primary treatments in the UK and USA.
It is scandalous.

CBT is a psychological-based talking treatment – except that it does nothing to treat the condition and therefore has no chance of curing it. Or even improving it. But this is so obvious when it is a psychological treatment being used for a physical illness. And it is still the other of the two main treatments today.

The fact that the CFS Advisory Committee have ignored advice made to them just seems plain stupid. And will just cause further despair for so many.

GPs treatment of CFS is . . .

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One of the main reasons I started up this blog was to get out some pent-up anger and emotions that have been blocked in over all the years. One area has been dealing with GPs and other health professionals.

Note :

I have removed this post now.  For a few reasons :

1) Don’t want to get struck of by my GPs surgery !
Although it would be good to find another more “CFS/ME aware” GP – I don’t have the energy or the time to do this. Not right now anyway.

2) I don’t want to cause any offence to the clinical phsycologist I was referred to for the standard CBT treatment years ago. He was very nice and easy to talk to, and certainly made me feel much better about myself at the time.  To that extent CBT did some good. On the emotional front.
But unfortunately was no practical help at all for CFS. (Which we now know is to be expected – as a phsycology-based treatment will not cure a physical condition/illness.)

3) I certainly don’t want to cause any offence to David Mickel in Elgin – who must be the best GP anybody with CFS or ME could wish to have. Having met him and knowing his sense of humour – I am pretty sure he would not be at all upset at my list of rants.  But as he is doing some GP work again now (as well as the Mickel Therapy) I decided to add this anyway.

4) Now that I have had my mini-rant and got it off my chest – I feel much better for it !

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