Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques offer short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy. In this respect, it differs from classical psychoanalysis in emphasizing changes in thought patterns and behaviors rather than providing 'deep insight'. Importantly, the beneficial effects of CBT can be achieved in 10-20 sessions, compared with the many years required for classical psychoanalysis. Although CBT is often done on a one-to-one basis, it also lends itself to a group therapeutic setting. CBT was initially used in the treatment of mood disorders, but its use has subsequently been expanded to include various other medical conditions, including chronic pain states. Over the past 18 years, several chronic pain treatment programs have used CBT techniques in the management of fibromyalgia. In this review, the results from 13 programs using CBT, alone or in combination with other treatment modalities, are analyzed. In most studies, CBT provided worthwhile improvements in pain-related behavior, self-efficacy, coping strategies and overall physical function. Sustained improvements in pain were most evident when individualized CBT was used to treat patients with juvenile fibromyalgia. The current data indicate that CBT, as a single treatment modality, does not offer any distinct advantage over well-planned group programs of education or exercise, or both. Its role in the management of fibromyalgia patients needs further research.
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