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Mind-Body Therapies vs CBT for Undergrad Stress

09 Jul

Investigators from Buenos Aires University examined psychoneuroendocrine responses to three different types of stress management programs. The first arm was training in deep breathing, relaxation response, meditation, and guided imagery (RRGI); the second arm was training in cognitive behavioral techniques (CB); and the third arm of the study included both RRGI and CB (RRGICB).

Fifty-two undergraduate students were randomly assigned to one of the 3 conditions or a control group. A pre/post experimental design was used, measuring  anxiety, anger, hopelessness, neuroticism, respiration rate, and salivary cortisol levels.

Results showed that subjects in the RRGI group had significantly lower levels of anxiety (p < .011), anger (p < .012), neuroticism (p < .01), respiratory rate (p < .002), hopelessness (p < .01), and salivary cortisol (p < .002) after the treatment.

Subjects in the CB group showed less impressive but still significantly lower levels of anxiety (p < .018), anger (p < .037), and neuroticism (p < .03) after the treatment.

Subjects in the combined RRGICB group had the most impressive outcomes, showing significantly lower levels of anxiety (p < .001), anger (p < .001), neuroticism (p < .008), hopelessness (p < .01), respiratory rate (p < .001), and salivary cortisol (p < .002) after treatment. Subjects in the control group showed only one variable modification - a significant increase in cortisol levels (p < .004).

The researchers conclude that the combination of deep breathing, relaxation response, meditation, and guided imagery techniques along with CB appeared highly effective at helping people to deal with stress, at least in the short term.

Citation:  Iglesias SL, Azzara S, Argibay JC, Arnaiz ML, de Valle Carpineta M, Granchetti H, Lagomarsino E. Psychological and physiological response of students to different types of stress management programs. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2012 Jul; 26 (6): pp. 149-58.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award