The Role of Psychotherapy in ME/CFS Patient Care

April 21, 2023

Tilman und Bettina Grande have published, with the support of Fatigatio, the German ME/CFS society and WE&ME Foundation (former TEMPI Foundation), the following paper:

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue (ME/CFS) is a post-infectious, Chronic Disease syndrome that can lead to severe impairment and total disability. Although the disease has been known for a long time, and has been coded in the ICD (G93.3), medical research has not yet been able to reach a consensus regarding its physiological basis and how best to treat it.

Against the background of these shortcomings, psychosomatic disease models have been developed and psychotherapeutic treatments have been derived from them, but their empirical testing has led to sobering results.

According to the current state of research, psychotherapy and psychosomatic rehabilitation have no curative effect in the treatment of ME/CFS. Nevertheless, we see numerous patients in practices and outpatient clinics who suffer severely as a result of their illness and whose mental well-being and coping strategies would benefit from psychotherapeutic help.

In this article, we outline a psychotherapeutic approach that serves this need, taking into account two basic characteristics of ME/CFS: firstly, the fact that ME/CFS is a physical illness and that curative treatment must therefore be physical; and secondly, the fact that post exertional malaise (PEM) is a cardinal symptom of ME/CFS and thus warrants tailored psychotherapeutic attention.