Group-MCT Significantly Improves Anxiety and Depression in Cardiac Rehabilitation Patients

A study, led by Professor Adrian Wells at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) and the University of Manchester (UoM), and funded by the National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR), has found that Metacognitive Therapy significantly improves symptoms of anxiety and depression for heart disease patients.

Findings were published in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation earlier this week.

Following a cardiac event, patients in the UK are offered cardiac rehabilitation (CR). Whilst CR services do have an educational component and an exercise component, they don’t currently include any specific mental health treatment to support patients with anxiety and depression. Services that do offer psychological support often use treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which are not very effective at improving the mental health in heart disease patients. One of the reasons for this is that CBT focuses on challenging negative thoughts and beliefs, which can be completely valid and realistic in people suffering from chronic and life-threatening heart conditions. 

The PATHWAY study evaluated the effectiveness of delivering group=MCT, alongside normal CR services, in treating symptoms of anxiety and depression in heart disease patients, in comparison to just receiving normal CR. Half of the 332 participants were randomly allocated to group-MCT plus standard CR treatment, and the other half were allocated to the standard CR.

Findings showed for the first time ever that MCT plus CR is significantly more effective in improving symptoms of anxiety and depression in heart disease patients at post-treatment at 12-month follow up.

It also proved to be more effective in helping patients reduce unhelpful thinking patterns and trauma symptoms.

Overall, there was an improvement in the mental health of one in three heart patients who received MCT alongside standard CR treatment, in comparison to only one in five of those who received standard CR treatment. A further finding was that MCT appeared to prevent some patients from developing mental health problems.  

The findings provide a major step in understanding and improving the overall recovery of heart disease patients.

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