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General Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Chronic Pain

Every day, millions of Americans are affected by chronic pain disorders. And while the individual conditions may vary, the resulting pain and discomfort can lead to same complications. For example, it's not uncommon for sufferers of chronic pain to experience effects like decreased mobility, problems at work and home, depression and poor quality of life. And while pain-relieving drugs may provide short-term relief, they are associated with harmful and uncomfortable side effects like dependence, drowsiness, dizziness and more. Thankfully, there are a number of drug-free approaches in the treatment of chronic pain, one of which involves the use of psychotherapy. The following is an in-depth look at the use of psychotherapy in patients with chronic pain, which includes information on methods, benefits and more.

Psychotherapy and Pain Management: How it Works

For individuals suffering from chronic pain disorders, the option of psychotherapy may not be appealing. Many patients may feel insulted or as if their symptoms are not being taken seriously or addressed in the proper ways. However, just because a physician recommends counseling, it doesn't mean that pain and other symptoms aren't real. Rather, instead of treating the actual pain in chronic patients, psychotherapy can help in the development of coping strategies, relaxation methods and other healthy behaviors. In fact, research suggests that, through the proper psychotherapy techniques, patients can learn to increase their tolerance to pain and better manage the stress and anxiety associated with chronic pain disorders.

Common Methods

In approaching chronic pain from a psychological standpoint, many physicians find it helpful to use something called the Multidimensional Pain Inventory, or MPI. This instrument promotes a better understanding of pain by assessing factors like intensity, emotional distress and more. Following an MPI evaluation, many psychologists address chronic pain through the use of the following methods.

  • Cognitive and behavioral therapies. These methods are designed so that patients can learn to pinpoint and modify unhealthy thoughts, actions and behaviors. In the treatment of chronic pain, cognitive and behavioral techniques can help patients to stop focusing on discomfort and other effects as well replace negative thoughts with positive actions and behaviors.
  • Biofeedback. This method works on the premise that all bodily functions, including heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and more, can be controlled by the mind. The idea behind biofeedback is that, through the awareness of of what's going on inside our bodies, we are able to harness the power of our minds and control the symptoms and side effects of chronic pain.
  • Meditation. This technique has proven helpful in addressing the stress and anxiety associated with chronic pain disorders. When using mediation, psychologists promote calm and relaxation by coaching the patient on the importance of focus, attention, posture, breathing and other factors. The goal of mediation is not only to relax the mind, but to enhance physical relaxation as well, relieve tension and reduce pain.

Although chronic pain disorders can be mentally and physically debilitating, the psychotherapy techniques mentioned here can provide relief. If you are suffering from the effects of chronic pain, talk to a doctor to see if psychotherapy is right for you.