Workshop "Somatic symptoms in psychopathology: A mechanistic approach to treatment" for members

April 20, 2023 Tartu, Estonia
Somatic symptoms in psychopathology: A mechanistic approach to treatment
April 20, 2
Tartu Loodusmaja
Daily schedule:
9.30-10.00 Registration
10.00-17.00 Workshop "Somatic symptoms in psychopathology: A mechanistic approach to treatment"
Prof. Omer Van den Bergh, PhD, University of Leuven, Belgium

Depressive, anxiety and trauma-related disorders are often accompanied with somatic symptoms (e.g., pain, fatigue, dizziness). Also, a substantial number of patients in primary and secondary medical care consults for somatic symptoms that cannot be linked to bodily dysfunction and are considered nonspecific, functional and/or stress-related. In addition, somatic symptoms are the core of somatic symptom or bodily distress disorders according to DSM-5 and ICD-11, respectively. Often it is not clear whether and how such symptoms should be targeted and commonly they are considered epiphenomena of a larger cognitive-emotional problem that should be focused upon. In the workshop, we describe a new model to understand the often loose relationship between somatic symptoms and bodily dysfunction and discuss how compromised interoception may result in an intricate relationship between experiences of somatic symptoms and states of negative affect. From this view, we derive clinical implications for a comprehensive assessment and mechanistic treatment. In particular, we will discuss how stress-related physiology and nocebo-like cognitive mechanisms dynamically interact to produce vicious circles and self-fulfilling prophecies maintaining somatic symptoms and dysfunctional behavioural responses (e.g. avoidance of physical activity and other suspected symptom triggering factors) on the longer term leading to disability and demoralization. We will discuss and demonstrate new ways to counter such mechanisms.

Key learning objectives:
  1. To understand the often loose relationship between experienced bodily symptoms and somatic activity and dysfunction
  2. To be able to detect the critical mechanisms of the model in a patient’s story and to foster an understanding of the crucial mechanisms in patients
  3. To influence those mechanisms to the benefit of the patient.

Omer Van den Bergh is emeritus professor of health psychology at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He has been trained as a CBT-therapist and has extensive clinical experience in treating patients with stress-related problems, somatization disorder and medically unexplained symptoms in primary and secondary care. Prof. Van den Bergh is an expert in the broad area of the relationship between health and behavior. Specific key words in his work are symptom perception and (respiratory) psychophysiology in response to stress and aversive somatic experiences. His research involves both normal subjects in laboratory experiments, clinical studies on psychosomatic and pulmonary patients in the university hospital, and field studies on subjective health symptoms. He published over 300 papers and chapters in international journals and books.

The workshop is held in English. The workshop is intended only for members of EKKA and students in the Advanced course in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

Prof. Omer Van den Bergh will also be the keynote speaker at the EKKA spring conference on April 21, 2023.