Objective: A 3-day residential body awareness program (BAP) was developed to teach people with chronic aspecific psychosomatic symptoms (CAPS) to react adequately to disturbances of the balance between a daily workload and the capacity to deal with it. The long-term effects of the program in improving the balance between work stress and recovery are presented in this study. The intervening effect of 'improved balance' on quality of life is also analysed.
Methods: A pre-post design is used with post-measures at 2 and 12 months after the program, without controls (n = 122). Mean age is 42.5 years (S.D. = 9.0) and 60% of participants are female.
Results: The results show participants become more active physically and socially, and at the same time take the opportunity to recover. There was a difference measured in changing balance for participants who are fully employed and participants who are not working or are working part-time due to health problems: the second group reintegrated into work, the first group spent more time socialising inside the family. Personal goals are realised by 85% of the participants. Realising personal goals and becoming more active is a mediating factor for increasing quality of life. The majority of the measured changes can be interpreted as clinically relevant outcomes with medium-to-large effect sizes. Spouses of the participants also confirm these effects.
Discussion and conclusion: Evaluation of the BAP gives evidence to conclude that this program leads to long-term effects in CAPS. Participants react more adequately to disturbances between daily workload and the capacity to deal with this load. Two and 12 months after the 3-day program, they changed their behaviour to a more active lifestyle and increased self-management in coping with stress and psychosomatic symptoms.
Practice implications: By paying more attention to the balance between work stress and recovery, patient educators may be able to increase their effectiveness. Personal goal realization can be effective in guiding people by getting them out of the negative spiral. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.