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Psychother Psychosom. 2000 May-Jun;69(3):117-22.

Exploring the benefits of group psychotherapy in reducing alexithymia in coronary heart disease patients: a preliminary study.

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Laboratory of Cardiological Rehabilitation, Institute of Cardiology, Kaunas Medical University, Kaunas, Lithuania.



Although there is preliminary evidence that alexithymia may influence the course of coronary heart disease (CHD), there are no studies exploring attempts to modify alexithymic characteristics in cardiac patients.


Twenty post-myocardial infarction (MI) patients (19 men and 1 woman) were placed in a treatment group, which received weekly group psychotherapy for 4 months. Seventeen post-MI patients (16 men and 1 woman) were placed in a comparison group which received two educational sessions over a period of 1 month. All subjects completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS) before the start of group therapy, at the end of the 4-month period, and in follow-up assessment after 6-month, 1-year, and 2-year intervals.


In the psychotherapy treatment group, there was a significant reduction in the mean TAS score following group therapy, which was maintained over the 2-year follow-up period. In the educational group, there were no significant changes in mean TAS scores between the initial testing and any of the follow-up intervals. On an individual basis, a decrease to a lower level of TAS scores occurred in a higher percentage of patients in the treatment group than in the educational group. Over the 2-year follow-up period, patients with decreased alexithymia following group therapy experienced fewer cardiac events (reinfarction, sudden cardiac death, or rehospitalization for rhythm disorder or severe angina) than patients whose alexithymia remained unchanged.


The results indicate that group psychotherapy is able to decrease alexithymia and that for many patients this change can be maintained for at least 2 years. A reduction in the degree of alexithymia seems to influence favorably the clinical course of CHD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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