Efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy targeting severe fatigue following COVID-19

Efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy targeting severe fatigue following COVID-19: results of a randomized controlled trial

Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2023

Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of psychotherapy continues to evolve. Initially focused on helping to manage the stress of a global health crisis, prolonged isolation, and acute illness, our attention as psychotherapists now increasingly turns toward long-term effects of the pandemic. This includes a condition referred to as “long COVID,” in which symptoms, especially severe fatigue, persist long after the acute phase of the disease has passed.

A recently published study explores the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a targeted intervention for persistent post-COVID fatigue. The randomized controlled trial revealed that CBT significantly reduced severe fatigue among patients suffering from long COVID, with sustained benefits observed even 6 months post-treatment.

At 6 months follow-up, 63% of the care as usual (CAU) group was severely fatigued, versus only 26% of the CBT group. Additionally, the CBT group had less severe somatic symptoms, fewer problems with concentration, and improved physical and social functioning. The effectiveness of CBT in this context signals a promising non-pharmacological approach for tackling one of the most prevalent and debilitating long-term effects of COVID-19.


Highlights from the Study

CBT-treated patients were “less often severely and chronically fatigued, reported fewer concentration problems, less severe somatic symptoms, and improved physical and social functioning across follow-up assessments.”

“The high number of self-referrals and low attrition rate suggest that CBT is an acceptable and feasible intervention for at least a group of post-COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, our preliminary data on adverse events and the absence of deterioration of fatigue in the CBT group indicate that CBT for severe post-COVID-19 is safe.”

At Feeling Good Institute, we see cognitive and behavioral interventions as essential aspects of a treatment program for somatic symptoms like fatigue and chronic pain. We tailor our approach to each client’s unique circumstances and goals for treatment.

Research Brief Author: Brad Dolin, AMFT and APCC

Citation: Kuut, T. A., Müller, F., Csorba, I., Braamse, A., Aldenkamp, A., Appelman, B., Assmann-Schuilwerve, E., Geerlings, S. E., Gibney, K. B., Kanaan, R. A. A., Mooij-Kalverda, K., Olde Hartman, T. C., Pauëlsen, D., … Knoop, H. (2023). Efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy targeting severe fatigue following COVID-19: results of a randomized controlled trial. Clinical Infectious Diseases. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciad257

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