This paper presents the evaluation findings of a Sophrology programme run for people with Long Covid in the Spring of 2021.
What is Sophrology?
Sophrology is a mind-body practice which helps to promote well-being. It was developed by a neuropsychiatrist in the 1960s and has been widely practised in continental Europe for over 60 years. It comprises a fusion of techniques from Western neuroscience and psychology and ancient Eastern practices such as Yoga, Buddhism and Japanese Zen.
Simple practical techniques are taught including breathing, gentle physical movements, visualisations, relaxation, and exercises for improving awareness and concentration. It can help those dealing with anxiety, stress, poor sleep, chronic fatigue, depression, pain, and low self-confidence. It is also used in corporate settings and in the sports world to improve performance, motivation, and confidence.
Recruiting the Long Covid Participants
An advertisement for the Sophrology programme was posted in two Long Covid groups on Facebook. This resulted in 10 women aged between 33 and 67 years volunteering to attend the course. They were all professional women including NHS clinicians, generally off sick from work with Long Covid or working reduced hours.
A pre-course questionnaire identified their Long Covid symptoms, other medical conditions, and psychological issues, Their most common Long Covid symptoms were fatigue, brain fog, sleep difficulties and joint/muscle pains. Psychological issues included anxiety, PTSD, burn out, and grief. The questionnaire also included Well-Being measures in order to evaluate the impact of the programme and identified the areas of Sophrology participants were most interested in.
The Sophrology Programme
Aims and Objectives
The analysis of the participant’s pre-course questionnaire informed the overall aim and objectives of the course. The overall aim was to help people in their journey of recovery from Long Covid. Objectives included:
- To teach people Sophrology tools and techniques that they could use in their everyday lives to help improve their physical and emotional well-being.
- To help people understand and implement the core principles of Sophrology including body awareness, positivity, objective reality, and non-judgement.
- To focus on areas of particular concern for the group. (See themes below)
Overview of the Programme
Two groups were run using Zoom, one in the evening and one during the day. The sessions were weekly for one hour and ran for a period of 12 weeks.
The sessions were themed according to the results of the pre course questionnaire but also according to the needs and issues that arose as the groups progressed. Themes included: aiding recovery and physical well-being, positivity, and emotional well-being, managing anxiety and stress, energy management, sleep, concentration and focus, self-confidence, motivation, pain relief, self-compassion, and gratitude.
A typical session included a “check in” by group members on how they were doing, a short presentation on the day’s theme, a Sophrology session comprising specifically chosen exercises – breathing, postures, simple physical movements, visualisations, etc and finally feedback from the group. Recordings of the sessions were provided for participants to use to practice between sessions and on occasion additional written information and exercises.
The Impact of the Programme
The majority of participants showed a high level of commitment with 40% attending all twelve sessions and average attendance for the group being high at 85%.
All Well-Being measures for the group showed significant improvement, as follows:
- General outlook on life + 84%
- Physical well-being +80%
- Concentration and focus +60%
- Day to day energy +52%
- Motivation +51%
- Self-confidence +44%
- Emotional well-being +33%
- Sleep +28%
- Stress+26% (May be lower than expected due to confusion over question wording)
Participants’ qualitative feedback on the programme was also very positive. All the participants stated that they had noticed benefits and changes from doing the programme, all planned to continue using Sophrology in their everyday life and all would recommend it to a friend.
It was clear that being in a group with others with the same condition was also highly beneficial for the participants as evidenced in some of the evaluation questionnaire comments.
Feedback from participants included:
“I would highly recommend this programme to others as a therapeutic way of trying to deal with Long Covid and its symptoms.”
“I have noticed a really big reduction in fatigue and anxiety.”
“Sleeping is more normal now and I am more relaxed and feel like there is an end tunnel in sight.”
“It has given me vital tools to deal with emotional and physical shortcomings including anxiety, brain fog and headaches.”
“I have gained so much more energy. I still get some fall backs from time to time and fatigue but it is becoming less and less. “
“There isn’t much help from the NHS Long Covid wise and to find this programme has really helped me where I felt hopeless and very alone”.
“I would recommend to anybody, not only people suffering from Long Covid but as a programme to enhance your life as a whole.”
“Fantastic toolkit for life”
“Beryl is a fantastic facilitator. You feel immediately at ease with her. Her programme is very well articulated and detailed. She has put an awful lot of effort and thought into this programme.”
“10/10. Because she emanates serenity and positive energy. She is a beautiful human being and an excellent facilitator.”
I personally observed significant changes and improvements in the participants over the course of the twelve weeks, particularly in respect of a more positive outlook on life. This may be a small study, but it has shown that Sophrology has the potential to be very effective and beneficial for people with Long Covid.
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