Effects of DGBIs on the SMI Community

Issues with anxiety and isolation go hand-in-hand for those in the SMI community.  The last thing anyone with an SMI would want is additional triggers to feed those negative feelings. Problems with gut health can do just that and occur at an alarmingly high rate amongst our community. Disorders of the Gut-Brain Connection (DGBI) can intensify anxiety and increase isolation, and no one wants that!  Knowing how important this topic is for our community, we interviewed Dr. Ali Navidi of GI Psychology to gather vital details. At Help in the Home we educate on important topics like this because of our holistic approach.  Learn more about our role as a partner with medical practitioners here.

There are effective short-term treatment options available that can provide hope for those seeking solutions for GI tract problems. Dr. Navidi is a licensed clinical psychologist and one of the founders of GI Psychology, a multi-state center specializing in helping patients with GI disorders and chronic pain. He is trained as a generalist and works with children, adolescents and adults who are struggling with complex medical issues, anxiety disorders and depression.


Take a look at our interview with Dr. Navidi to learn more!


Q: What exactly is DGBI?

DGBI stands for Disorders of the Gut-Brain Connection. These various conditions can occur throughout someone’s lifetime. They include many conditions such as:

  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • functional dyspepsia
  • functional constipation and diarrhea
  • functional abdominal pain


Q: What are the typical co-occurring mental health diagnoses you see for those diagnosed with DGBI?

DGBIs seem to occur more often in patients who are diagnosed with anxiety, have a history of trauma, have an autism spectrum disorder, and/or a history of eating disorders. We don’t understand fully why these associations exist, but it appears to be a bi-directional relationship. Which means, for example, anxiety makes it more likely to develop a DGBI and a DGBI can make someone’s anxiety worse.


Q:Please explain the gut-brain connection (sometimes called “second brain”) and other body functions that are affected by gut health.

The gut-brain connection, or the brain-gut axis, is the direct connection between the brain (central nervous system) and gut (enteric nervous system) via the vagus nerve. These systems influence body functions such as:

  • digestion
  • signals of being hungry or full
  • bowel movements
  • perception of pain

The connection between the gut and the brain is so powerful! This is also why gut-brain therapies can be so effective.


Q:Tell us more about the GI Psychology Practice.

GI Psychology is a very specific behavioral health practice that was created by myself and another clinical psychologist, Dr. Tiffany Duffing. GI Psychology is one of the few practices in the country that specializes in treating DGBIs. Millions of patients are diagnosed with these problems and we have treatments that are very effective, yet very few clinicians are trained to utilize those treatments. This results in clinicians and patients who don’t know that effective treatments are available. Our goal is to train more clinicians to treat DGBIs and also to get the word out about these treatments.


Q:What are the typical age ranges of your clients with DGBI?

We see DGBIs in all age ranges! However, often we see the problems first emerging in the pre-teen and teen years.


Q:Can you describe the treatment process that you offer?

Our interventions rely heavily on evidence-based approaches, primarily clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy. We also offer individual sessions via tele-health, as well as an 8-week skills group.


Q:How effective is treatment? What is the average timeline or number of treatments typically required to find relief?

Our practice’s data has shown that 85% of our patients experience relief within 10 sessions, which is also the average number of sessions. Relief is expected to last long term following the end of treatment. The skills the patient learns will last a lifetime!

There is significant variability in patient responses to treatment. Some research studies suggest that 60-80% of individuals diagnosed with IBS will experience significant improvement with gut-directed hypnotherapy by the end of treatment. Most patients will initially commit to 8-10 sessions, with many noticing symptom improvement beginning around session 4. Our internal data shows that patients with IBS who complete at least eight sessions will reach their treatment goals 83% of the time.


Q:How does resolving gut health issues improve the quality of life for those with severe mental illness and/or neurodivergence?

Resolution of gut health often leads to improved quality of life for everyone, and is not necessarily specific to individuals with severe mental illness and/or neurodivergence. Better quality of life after treatment usually comes in the form of symptom reduction, decreased functional impairment, increased participation in enjoyable activities, and emotional functioning often improves.


Q:What does the process for a new patient look like? What should they expect?

New patients all start with a free phone consultation. Then they are scheduled with one of our skilled clinicians to discuss their DGBI more in-depth and the impact it’s having on their life. Collaborative decisions are then made on how the patient and clinician will work together to eliminate the problems presented.


Q:What research can you share with us that supports successful treatments and expounds upon the brain-gut connection?

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the benefits of hypnotherapy treatments for DGBI. A great place to start is the Patient Resource which has many articles on the following specific topics:

  • hypnotherapy with adults
  • gut-directed hypnotherapy with children and adolescents
  • combining hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy


Q:What kind of training is available for clinicians who want to offer similar services?

There are numerous training programs for students who are interested in learning about GastroPsych, including pre-doctoral internships and post-doctoral fellowship programs. Clinicians can also attend intensive training in clinical hypnosis. Groups such as the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and the National Pediatric Hypnosis Training Institute (NPHTI) offer training regularly.


Q:How is someone referred to your practice?

When someone could benefit from brain-gut therapy, they can sign up for a free phone consultation at gipsychology.com. Patient information can also be entered into the form at gipsychology.com/referral and our administration team will follow up.




At Help in the Home we provide personalized care and support to adults diagnosed with a severe mental illness. As a client-centered team, we come alongside our community members because we believe that each person is worthy of dignity. 


To contact GI Psychology call 703-910-2577




Schedule a free consultation for Help in the Home by calling 866-967-9994.

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