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Moving on: the BodyMind ApproachTM for medically unexplained symptoms

Helen Payne (School of Education, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK)
Susan D.M. Brooks (Pathways2Wellbeing, Hitchin, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 19 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to summarise practice-based evidence from an analysis of outcomes from a county-wide pilot study of a specialised primary care clinic employing an original approach for patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). Conditions with persistent bodily symptoms for which tests and scans come back negative are termed MUS. Patients are generic, high health-utilising and for most there is no effective current treatment pathway. The solution is a proven service based on proof of concept, cost-effectiveness and market research studies together with practice-based evidence from early adopters. The research was transferred from a university into a real-world primary care clinical service which has been delivering in two clinical commissioning groups in a large county in England.


Clinical data calculated as reliable change from the various clinics were aggregated as practice-based evidence pre- and post-intervention via standardised measurements on anxiety, depression, symptom distress, functioning/activity, and wellbeing. It is not a research paper.


At post-course the following percentages of people report reliable improvement when compared to pre-course: reductions in symptom distress 63 per cent (39/62), anxiety 42 per cent (13/31) and depression 35 per cent (11/31); increases in activity levels 58 per cent (18/31) and wellbeing 55 per cent (17/31) and 70 per cent felt that they had enough help to go forward resulting in the self-management of their symptoms which decreases the need to visit the GP or hospital.

Research limitations/implications

Without a full clinical trial the outcomes must be interpreted with caution. There may be a possible Hawthorne or observer effect.

Practical implications

Despite the small numbers who received this intervention, preliminary observations suggest it might offer a feasible alternative for many patients with MUS who reject, or try and find unsatisfying, cognitive behaviour therapy.

Social implications

Many patients suffering MUS feel isolated and that they are the only one for whom their doctor cannot find an organic cause for their condition. The facilitated group has a beneficial effect on this problem, for example they feel a sense of belonging and sharing of their story.


The BodyMind Approach is an original intervention mirroring the new wave of research in neuroscience and philosophy which prides embodiment perspectives over solely cognitive ones preferred in the “talking” therapies. There is a sea change in thinking about processes and models for supporting people with mental ill-health where the need to include the lived body experience is paramount to transformation.



Payne, H. and Brooks, S.D.M. (2017), "Moving on: the BodyMind ApproachTM for medically unexplained symptoms", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 63-71.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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