Sophrology for chronic illness: Definition, benefits for chronic illness, and more!
Published 2 Nov 2020 • Updated 5 Nov 2020 • By Candice Salomé
Sophrology is a natural method that helps to regain a certain harmony between mind and body, through self-awareness and balance of emotions, thoughts and the body. By restoring emotional well-being, this alternative therapy helps to better support chronic pain.
What is sophrology? How is it practised? What are its benefits for chronic illnesses? How does a session take place? Can it be practiced at home?
We tell you everything in our article!
What is sophrology?
Caycedian sophrology owes its name to its developer, the Colombian psychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo. This alternative therapy originated in the 1960s. It focuses on the patient as a whole through both the body and the mind, and through training it helps to develop serenity and well-being. Sophrology is based on techniques of relaxation and activation of body and mind.
Sophrology is inspired by hypnosis, phenomenology* and Eastern techniques such as yoga or Zen**. It consists of a set of techniques of relaxation, breathing, concentration, simple movements and visualisation.
Sophrology pushes the patient to work on his or her own values and to get to know himself or herself better. This method is very effective in maintaining confidence and hope. It allows each person to strengthen themselves and improve their daily life by taking a new look at their present and future.
Sophrology is not considered as a form of medicine but as a tool for personal development.
This discipline can help relieve many problems such as:
- panic attacks
- lack of confidence and self-esteem
- sleep disorders
- chronic pain and its management
*A philosophical study that rules out any abstract interpretation and limits itself to the description and analysis of perceived phenomena only.
**Zen is a branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism which focuses on meditation (dhyāna) in a seated position, called zazen.
What are the benefits of sophrology for chronic illness?
First of all, it is important to remember that sophrology does not meant to cure, but is meant to be a complement to medical care. This method is centred on the person as a whole and its approach is different from the medical approach. It allows the patient to develop his or her own autonomy and to renew his or her own ability to fight illness.
Sophrology makes it possible to regulate both the intensity and perception of pain. The first objective is to "defocus", or shift the attention from the painful area to another area that is not in pain. By moving our attention away, our brain changes its perception of pain. The sophronised person will be progressively guided towards more pleasant sensations.
Sophrology can be effective in the management of the following illnesses:
Sophrology can help the patient to manage and accept the psychological turmoil related to the disease. During the entire course of care (from diagnosis), the sophrologist supports the patient in order to teach him or her to manage stress and to accept emotionsby releasing them (sadness, anger, anxiety, anguish, etc.).
This method of support is also recommended for patients experiencing the side effects of cancer treatments.
Fibromyalgia is characterised by widespread pain throughout the body, extreme fatigue and sleep disorders. Sophrology can help to soothe this condition by allowing the patient to reconnect with his or her body. The patient becomes aware of the painful areas of the body and learns to recognise more positive sensations (which will replace the pain) through breathing exercises.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease of the joints that causes pain and fatigue. Sophrology can intervene to help break the vicious circle: pain = stress = muscle contraction = even more pain.
Sophrology contributes to well-being in general but is highly recommended in the management of depression to help alleviate symptoms such as: sleeping problems, anxiety and low self-esteem, among others.
Sophrology can ease many conditions and can even help to prevent some of them, while improving quality of life and reducing stress. It is therefore an alternative therapy that is applicable for everyone, chronically ill or not.
How does a sophrology session take place?
Sessions can be individual or in groups. For people affected by pain and/or chronic illnesses, it is nevertheless advisable to practise sophrology via individual sessions which will be more adapted to the individual.
Sophrology sessions last approximately one hour.
The first session consists of an in-depth consultation with the patient so that the sophrologist clearly understand the patient's needs. The practitioner will then ask questions about the patient's perception of pain, the frequency of this pain and the repercussions of the disease on the patient's daily life. This first session allows the sophrologist to determine the best approach for the patient.
The following sessions generally begin with a fifteen minute discussion allowing the sophrologist to understand the patient's current state of mind in order to tailor the exercises.
The practitioner then guides the patient through dynamic relaxation exercises, consisting of breathing and relaxation, as well as gentle movements. The goal is to give the patient the basics and necessary advice to be able to continue the exercises at home (daily training is recommended). The objective of these dynamic relaxation exercises is to relax the body.
Then,visualisation work is done: the patient, standing, sitting or lying down, is guided by the sophrologist's voice. The objective of this phase is to transform the perception of pain.
Finally, the session ends with a short discussion to allow the patient to express their feelings and feedback about the therapy.
Five or six sessions are recommended to get used to the environment, but also to familiarise oneself with the techniques. Over these sessions the patient can gain confidence and adjust the therapy to their needs.
How much does a sophrology session cost?
As sophrology is an alternative therapy and is not very well known outside of continental Europe, it is not covered by the NHS.
On average, a sophrology session lasts between 45 minutes and 1 hour. The average price is not easy to estimate, as it depends on the sophrologist's place of practice (privately or in a centre) and the setting of the session (collective or individual).
One should allow for between £70 and £100 for an individual session and between £10 and £20 for a group session.
Some exercises for you to try at home:
If you'd like to begin practicing sophrology alone at home, you can follow BeSophro's videos on YouTube,a leading sophrology clinic and online platform in the UK created by expert sophrologist and author Dominique Antiglio.
You can find, through a number of her videos, sophrology exercises that you can do easily from your sitting room:
These videos do not replace sophrology sessions with a practitioner due to their lack of personalisation.
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