Laurie Keefer, PhD, on Positive Psychology for Patients With IBD

In this video, she discusses her session “Introducing Your Patients With IBD to Positive Psychology," which she will present at the virtual 2020 Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (AIBD) regional meeting on June 27. 

Laurie Keefer, PhD, is an academic health psychologist and the director for Psychobehavioral Research within the Division of Gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City.


My name is Laurie Keefer. I am a health psychologist and professor of medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. I'm going to be talking about introducing positive psychology to your patients.

Now, you may wonder, what is positive psychology? Positive psychology is really the study of why people flourish. Why do people thrive? Rather than traditional psychology where we might look at more things like psychopathology—depression and anxiety—positive psychology is focused on how do we help patients reach their full potential, their well‑being, emotionally, physically, and all of the things that go with that in between.

The reason I'm talking about that in terms of inflammatory bowel disease is that we know in IBD that we cannot disentangle mental and physical health from each other. We shouldn't actually dichotomize mental health and physical health in IBD.

We also, as a group, want to make sure that our patients do more than just survive their diagnosis, do more than just survive the treatments, procedures, medications, and surgeries that they might undergo. We want to make sure that they know how to thrive and live the most meaningful lives possible. Therefore, positive psychology is a great way to make sure that patients are able to experience that.

The problem we have had in the past, which I'm going to talk about, is focusing too much on the reactive approach to mental health care in IBD. While we've had a great increase in the attention paid to things like depression and anxiety in IBD, we often screen patients after they've already started to experience these symptoms.

I'm going to talk about how to talk to your patients about emotional health and well‑being long before depression, long before anxiety, about their symptoms really sets in. In other words, we're going to take a proactive approach to the mental health of patients with IBD.

In my talk, not only will I describe the reasoning for that, the relevance of that, the importance of one particular positive psychology construct called resilience—meaning how do people bounce back and thrive despite the diagnosis of IBD?—I'm also going to talk about some of the interventions that you as a physician, an advanced practice provider, or other providers can do without the help of a mental health professional, because we're all in this together. It would be really great to switch over our focus in IBD care to a positive psychology model.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you.