Sophrology is a holistic therapy aiming at restoring harmony between body and mind. Well established in France, it is still little known in the UK.
To increase the awareness of sophrology and its uses, I am reporting here on two scientific studies that were published in 2018 and investigated the benefits of sophrology in therapeutic fields.
What is it about?
This first study by Bertrand et al. 20181 looked at 60 patients who had an interventional radiology procedure as part of their cancer management.
What it means is that they had to either undergo a biopsy or a central venous catheterisation. Not the most pleasant of experiences I am sure you’ll agree!
42 patients were asked whether they wanted to benefit from “relaxation therapy”during the procedure. By relaxation therapy they offered a mix of sophrology and hypnosis. 18 patients were used as a control group and did not get relaxation therapy.
What did they look at?
To assess whether sophrology was beneficial, patients were asked to fill questionnaires about:
1) Their anxiety levels;
2) The pain they experienced during the act.
They used a scale from 0 to 10 where 10 was the highest level of anxiety or the highest level of pain.
Anxiety levels were monitored both before and during the procedure. Pain levels were monitored after the act.
The researchers also asked the medical staff who performed the procedure to rate whether they found the use of relaxation therapy beneficial at the end of each procedure.
The 42 patients who opted for sophrology were asked to focus on their breathing and positive memories a few minutes before the procedure and were led into an altered state of consciousness (between awake and asleep) conducive of deeper relaxation throughout the procedure.
What did they find?
Both groups had similar levels of anxiety before the procedure. However, in the sophrology group, the average time they spent with patients before the procedure was 3.8 minutes. It was more of a dialogue rather than sophrology!
During the procedure, which on average lasted 11 minutes, the anxiety levels of the sophrology group decreased by two thirds. It went from a score of 6 before the act to a score of 2 during the act. The control group on the other hand felt more anxious during the procedure.
The level of pain experienced by the sophrology group was less than half the level of pain experienced by the control group.
What do medical staff think?
The medical staff were also very supportive of the use of relaxation therapy. 90% considered it highly or fairly beneficial.
Shall we get excited?
Anxiety levels reduced by two thirds;
Experienced pain levels reduced by more than half;
90% of medical staff seeing a benefit.
Aren’t the results amazing for an average of less than 15 minutes of relaxation therapy?
This study by Romieu et al.2 is a randomised controlled trial. Now, that gets me excited because randomised controlled trials are high on the hierarchy of scientific evidence. It means it’s a proper and robust study that has been done (although, being picky, I could still say that they only had 74 patients and if they had a larger study that would be even better).
What is it about?
This is a study on 74 children who were hospitalised for an asthma attack. Half of them benefited from one-hour sophrology session in addition to the conventional treatment. The other group only had the conventional treatment.
What did they found?
1- The peak expiratory flow increased in the group of children who did sophrology while there was no difference between the two groups at the start.
What does that mean? It means that children in the sophrology group could exhale better and faster. Asthma blocks the airways and lessens the peak expiratory flow. The results here just show how much a difference relaxation and breathing exercises can do.
2- The children who did the sophrology session had less difficulty of breathing (dyspnea) than the other group. This is likely to be in direct relation to the fact that their peak expiratory flow increased.
3- The oxygen saturation increased by 1% in the sophrology group and did not change in the other group. Although the authors acknowledge that this result was statistically significant they reckon it is not clinically relevant. Still it shows that something happens at physiological level.
Finally they gave a questionnaire to the children to assess their quality of life before they were discharged from hospital (quality of life on physical, emotional, social levels and also school level). Here they did not find significant differences between the two groups.
However who could expect such changes with just ONE sophrology session?
Sophrology is a discipline. To experience long term effects it is best to practice on a regular basis.
The message from these two studies is that one single session can bring significant positive benefits.
If one session can bring such relief and have such positive results, why wouldn’t you want to carry on and practice on a daily basis?
My belief is that wellbeing is not granted. It is something we have to work on, but it is impressive how much better you can feel with just a few minutes and some very simple exercises.
If you would like to give sophrology a try please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always eager to share this wonderful method which is a blend of the best from Western relaxation and Eastern meditation techniques.
1 Bertrand, A., Iannessi, A., Buteau, S., Jiang, X., Beaumont, H., Grondin, B. and Baudin, G. (2018). Effects of relaxing therapies on patient’s pain during percutaneous interventional radiology procedures. Annals of Palliative Medicine, 8, pp.702-702.
2 Romieu, H., Charbonnier, F., Janka, D., Douillard, A., Macioce, V., Lavastre, K., Abassi, H., Renoux, M., Mura, T. and Amedro, P. (2018). Efficiency of physiotherapy with Caycedian Sophrology on children with asthma: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatric Pulmonology, 53(5), pp.559-566.