Persistent somatic symptoms (i.e., chronic pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal disturbance, neurologic symptoms) that are associated with emotional distress are highly prevalent and present a significant public health problem. "Somatic symptom disorders," "functional disorders," "fibromyalgia," "irritable bowel syndrome," "somatoform disorders," or "medically unexplained symptoms" - are just some of the many terms patients hear in the medical offices regarding their symptoms. While somatic distress may have various etiologies, current research in developmental neuroscience suggests that for a large subgroup of patients, growing up in a non-optimal early interpersonal environment might have affected development of their neuro-immune system and abilities to regulate emotions, pain, immune, and all other body systems, predisposing them to experience distress and emotion as bodily symptoms. Often, these patients suffer for years, many develop disability, and are some of the most challenging to treat. How can we best help them? Can we reverse the detrimental effects of early interpersonal adversity during adulthood? Is there enough evidence to suggest which specific treatments and techniques are helpful?
Our 3rd Columbia Psychosomatics Conference will focus on these questions. Continuing our commitment to translational approach, we bridge neuroscience and clinical practice, and engage clinicians and researchers in a multidisciplinary dialog. Our 2017 conference will focus on psychotherapeutic treatments in depth. Specifically, we will explore what is the most current understanding of the mechanisms of change and clinical techniques that are most helpful in alleviating somatic distress among patients with history of early interpersonal adversity. Several psychotherapeutic approaches that focus on reversing effects of early interpersonal adversity on the body by working with emotion and interpersonal relating will be presented.
From talks on basic neuroscience and infant-caregiver interaction research to lectures on specific psychotherapy approaches particularly helpful for somatic symptom presentations, our international group of leading researchers and clinicians will engage audience in conceptual explorations of this topic and discussions of specific clinical techniques. In addition, workshops on several psychotherapeutic approaches to treating somatic distress post early adversity will help both clinicians and researchers experience up close what transpires in psychotherapy sessions with somatic symptom patients which can inform clinical practice as well as research.