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Adding Psychology to Voice Disorder Treatment

May 9, 2016

Photograph of professor Patricia Frasier

Photograph of professor Patricia Frasier
Photo: Jack Swift, CLAgency

Although doctors are responsible for treating the physical ailments of the human body, patients’ mental health can also impact their physical well-being in several ways. Professor Patricia Frazier has been studying stress and trauma, including coping with medical conditions, for more than 20 years. A recent avenue for her research is how online psychological interventions can be used to benefit patients who have voice disorders. This project is made possible through the generous donation of the Engdahl Family Research fund.

Professor Frazier has already created an online stress management intervention for a student population. “We’ve done seven randomized control trials of this online stress management intervention for students here and at Normandale Community College and have shown that it is effective in reducing symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety,” Frazier says.

The new project for patients with voice disorders stems from a collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Misono, a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Minnesota. The intervention is being adapted from Frazier’s existing online stress management intervention, and is designed to increase patients’ feelings of control during their treatment process.

“There are two good aspects of the intervention. One, if you have a voice disorder, engaging in talk therapy can be difficult. An intervention that does not involve a lot of vocal demand would be good for voice disorder patients,” Frazier says. “Second, many medical professionals are not trained to deal with the psychological aspects of chronic medical conditions. Using online interventions is a way to incorporate psychological skill building and interventions into the clinic model without requiring a lot of resources.”

Currently, Professor Frazier and Dr. Misono are  in the process of finalizing the intervention and conducting a pilot study to determine what patients think about the online intervention, whether they benefit from it, and how many patients complete the online program. Throughout the course of the intervention, patients will complete measures of stress and anxiety along with biweekly exercises that help them focus on what they have control over with regard to their voice problem.

Professor Frazier’s work is particularly relevant for patients who have less time to come in for clinical appointments. Being able to access these clinical interventions on their own time and at their own pace provides easier access to psychological skills that can promote recovery.