Send to

Choose Destination
Disabil Rehabil. 2018 Apr;40(7):829-835. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2016.1277393. Epub 2017 Jan 27.

Understanding therapeutic approaches to anxiety in vestibular rehabilitation: a qualitative study of specialist physiotherapists in the UK.

Author information

a Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education , Kingston University and St George's University of London , London , UK.
b Health Innovation Network , London , UK.



People with vestibular disorders are typically treated by physiotherapists in vestibular rehabilitation. Anxiety is strongly associated with vestibular disorders; however, there is a lack of understanding about how physiotherapists respond to people presenting with anxiety within vestibular rehabilitation. This study aimed to explore physiotherapists' current practice in assessing and treating patients with anxiety in vestibular rehabilitation.


A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with 10 specialist physiotherapists in vestibular rehabilitation in three university teaching hospitals in England. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.


Four themes were identified: (i) The therapeutic relationship, (ii) Adapting assessment and treatment, (iii) Psychological intervention and support, and (iv) Physiotherapists' education and training. Physiotherapists reported using a range of behavioral and cognitive techniques and adapting their therapeutic approach by placing greater emphasis on education, building trust and pacing treatment. Physiotherapists highlighted the need for more specialist psychological support for patients during vestibular rehabilitation and tailored training and guidance on addressing anxiety within vestibular rehabilitation.


Physiotherapists working in vestibular rehabilitation consider managing aspects of anxiety within their scope of practice and describe taking a psychosocial therapeutic approach. There is limited access to expert psychological support for patients with anxiety within vestibular rehabilitation. Implications for rehabilitation Anxiety is strongly associated with vestibular disorders and it is common for these patients to be managed by physiotherapists in vestibular rehabilitation. Vestibular rehabilitation services could improve access to psychological expertise through dedicated psychological input, more effective signposting and referral pathways, and better access to inter-professional support from psychologists and/or CBT practitioners in managing more complex patients. Physiotherapists requested tailored training and guidance to enhance their ability to manage patients with anxiety more effectively in vestibular rehabilitation.


Anxiety; physiotherapy; professional development; vestibular disorders; vestibular rehabilitation

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Taylor & Francis
Loading ...
Support Center