Behavioral Health Interventions Associated With Improved IBD Symptoms

Behavioral health interventions can help improve depression and anxiety in patients with IBD.

Behavioral health interventions in a medical home for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can improve outcomes, according to study results presented at the Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (AIBD) 2022 conference, held from December 5 to 7, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.

A total of 308 patients with IBD were offered behavioral health interventions, and 29% participated in at least 1 session with a behavioral health social worker from September 2021 to June 2022. In-person and telehealth interventions included cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness training, progressive muscle relaxation, and supportive counseling. Participants also received an anonymous electronic survey, which addressed self-reported improvement in coping and IBD symptoms and barriers to accessing behavioral health interventions such as travel distance and cost.

A total of 35 completed surveys were received. Free responses were grouped into communication, coping, and stress and anxiety support categories. Among the participants, 11 responded affirmatively to the question, “Did you notice an improvement in your IBD symptoms?” Improvement in urgency and frequency was noted by 4 respondents; improvement in anxiety, depression, and stress was noted by 3 respondents; improvement in pain and pain control was noted by 2 respondents; and 2 participants did not elaborate. Additional comments were provided by 18 participants (14 positive and 4 negative).

Communication was the most frequently reported subtheme, with 1 participant anticipating the sessions “as if I was conversing with a nonjudgmental friend.” Regarding coping, respondents noted the social worker’s expertise in helping to provide coping strategies and care. One responder commented, “These services have provided me with coping skills and the vital sense of security and mental support for the first time since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis 25 years ago.”

BHI [behavioral health interventions] should exist in the context of an IBD medical home for increased uptake and holistic management of IBD.

For stress and anxiety support, a responder commented about her provider, “She is helping me be at peace with my diagnosis and living with my health issues.” Another participant stated, “Living with IBD is isolating, stressful, stigmatizing, and depressing, so I feel very uplifted and supported since beginning my care.”

The negative comments were associated with poor communication and perceived low value of the intervention.

“Our study suggests multidisciplinary care integrating BHI [behavioral health intervention] is associated with high patient satisfaction in an IBD medical home in a variety of ways including communication, coping, and stress and anxiety support,” the study authors noted. “Furthermore, BHI [behavioral health intervention] should exist in the context of an IBD medical home for increased uptake and holistic management of IBD. Subjective patient-reported outcomes demonstrated improvement in IBD symptoms including depression and anxiety.”


Quiroga M, Forster E, Dubois MC, et al. Breaking barriers for behavioral health interventions. Abstract presented at: AIBD 2022; December 5-7, 2022; Orlando, FL. Abstract 97.