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Home » Psychology » Services » GI Psychology Service

GI Psychology Service

There is a very close connection between the brain and gut. As a result, many gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are affected by how we think and feel, and in turn can be helped by psychological and behavioral approaches.  When we are stressed, worried or depressed, it can worsen gut symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea, which can then worsen stress and anxiety, and so on. As well, diseases of the gut such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and celiac disease can be very challenging to manage. 

The most common GI disorder, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) involves symptoms of pain in the lower abdomen, changes in bowel habits with frequent, urgent diarrhea or constipation, bloating, and cramping.   This disorder of the lower ‘gut' or gastrointestinal (GI) tract is thought to occur because of disruptions in communication between the brain and the gut. Research suggests that people with IBS experience abnormal gut motility (an altered rate of contraction of the gut muscles) and enhanced visceral sensitivity (an increased awareness in the brain of normal gut activity as well as painful distensions in the gut). 

Services available

  • Initial assessment appointment, working with you to determine whether the GI Psychology Clinic's behavioral, non-medication approach is right for you
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Program for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (CBT-IBS)
    • small class format (10-15 individuals), with the added benefit of support and learning from each other
    • 6 weekly sessions, 1½ hours per session
    • behavioral ‘homework' in between sessions to practice learned strategies
  • Stress Kit for IBD
    • an online CBT-based program for those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and related distress
    • developed by the Manitoba IBD Clinical and Research Centre www.ibdmanitoba.org with a local patient advisory team available soon; currently undergoing evaluation
  • Limited individual treatment services for those with other (non-IBS) GI disorders which may benefit from psychological strategies to manage their disease.
  • Clinical services are available virtually through video sessions (Zoom) and in-person, depending on required pandemic precautions 

Description of services and treatment

Research has shown that psychological treatments are effective in providing relief of GI symptoms as well as in reducing the distress and coping difficulties that often occur when dealing with a chronic illness. These strategies focus on ways to decrease stress and cope differently so that the stress doesn't ‘go to the gut'. Cognitive behavioral therapy incorporates a number of tools aimed at changing behavior to improve health and strengthen resilience.

The approach commonly includes daily symptom monitoring, educational information about the GI disorder to ensure a better understanding of the illness, relaxation training to learn how to calm the gut, as well as training in strategies that increase psychological flexibility, checking and challenging thought patterns and distressing thoughts that can lead to gut reactions.

Key Provider(s)

Dr. Maia Kredentser, C. Psych

Dr. Lesley Graff, C. Psych.

Sites

Health Sciences Centre
Phone : 204-787-7424

Availability

Appointments are offered during regular clinic hours. 

The CBT-IBS program is offered throughout the year, in the fall, winter, and spring usually scheduled for late day.

Referral process

Referral from family physician or gastroenterologist; requires confirmed diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or other GI illness, and that the IBS/GI illness is the primary health concern.

Fax referral to: GI Psychology Clinic 204-787-3755

Click here for a link to the Clinical Health Psychology Referral Form

Links to other resources

Canadian Psychological Association fact sheets on effectiveness of psychological treatments: