A naturalistic study of alexithymia among psychiatric outpatients treated in an integrated group therapy program


Dr. John S. Ogrodniczuk, #420–5950 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada (e-mail: ogrodnic@interchange.ubc.ca).


Objectives. Alexithymia is common among psychiatric outpatients and can complicate treatment. There has been little research into whether alexithymia can be modified by psychological intervention, and whether change in alexithymia is related to other areas of improvement. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether participation in an integrated group therapy program could effect change in alexithymia, and whether such change is related to improvement in interpersonal functioning.

Design and methods. Sixty-eight consecutively admitted psychiatric outpatients to a comprehensive group therapy program were evaluated at baseline, post-therapy, and 3-month follow-up using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale 20, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems-28. Associations among variables were evaluated with correlations and among group comparisons with t test, ANOVA, chi-square tests, and logistic regression. Change in alexithymia was examined using repeated measures ANOVA, controlling for change in depressive symptoms.

Results. Alexithymia, particularly difficulty identifying feelings, decreased significantly during the treatment period. Post-therapy levels of alexithymia were maintained during the 3 months following treatment completion. Changes in alexithymia were significantly associated with changes in interpersonal problems, both during therapy and during the follow-up period.

Conclusions. The results of our study suggest that a comprehensive, integrated group therapy program can affect change in alexithymia, and that such change can be maintained once therapy is completed. Also, modifying alexithymia may contribute to improvement in interpersonal functioning.