Chronic Pain

Do you suffer from chronic pain?

  • Do you feel like pain negatively affects your life and your ability to reach your full potential?
  • Do you feel hopeless that you will ever feel better or be happy again?
  • Do you find yourself avoiding family and friends and isolating yourself?
  • Do you have negative thoughts such as “If I were stronger, I’d be able to handle my pain,” “Things will never get better,” or “I hate my body for betraying me.”

Chronic pain can have an overwhelming impact on the individual as well as their family and friends. The mental health component of pain management is critical to helping improve pain levels and in healing. I use several approaches to helping decrease pain including, mindfulness, psychoeducation, stress management, DBT, and CBT.

Have you heard of the Chronic Pain Cycle? Since chronic pain can impact many aspects of daily functioning and areas of life, the Chronic Pain Cycle is helpful to understand the processes and stages that can occur over time. Awareness of the cycle, and intervening at the different stages, can also help to change the pattern of responses and behavior.

Breaking the chronic pain cycle may not alleviate all pain, but it has been found to improve overall functioning. An apt analogy is a radio playing in your car. If you turn the volume way up, it is uncomfortable and impossible to do anything. That’s chronic pain. But what if you can turn down the volume to a low hum. It may still be there, but you can still function and enjoy the scenery. While decreasing pain intensity is ideal, the focus is on how to reduce pain-related suffering.

How will talk therapy help my chronic pain?

You are not alone. Chronic pain afflicts millions of people in the United States. Estimates range from 11-40%.  Most people pursue conventional medical treatments because of the belief that pain is, of course, a physical problem. However, as we discussed above in review of the Chronic Pain Cycle, there are social and psychological factors in addition to the biological. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely researched, time-limited psychotherapeutic approach that has been shown to be effective across a number of mental and behavioral conditions. CBT involves a structured approach that focuses on the relationships among cognitions (or thoughts), emotions (or feelings), and behaviors. Treatments based on cognitive behavioral theory have been successfully applied to the management of chronic pain, either delivered alone or as a component of an integrated, multimodal, and interdisciplinary pain management program. Evidence suggests that CBT improves functioning and quality of life for a variety of chronic pain conditions.

Reducing chronic pain is a skill that can be learned like any other.  

With a strong therapist-client partnership and outside resources to support our work, we can unlock the key to intervening in the Chronic Pain Cycle.  By the second session, we will have set goals and created a treatment plan.  

Some part of every session will be used to correct present thinking patterns and explore real life examples of how your thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs from your week have affected your pain, functioning, and behavior.  This will result in improvement in pain symptoms over time.  

Every session will also tackle long-term patterns of behavior that may be reinforcing beliefs about pain, and build practical coping skills for outside of the therapy room.  Sessions will also include evidence-based exercises to train your brain towards recognizing and defeating negative thinking to reduce suffering. 

We’ll discuss different strategies that you can use outside of therapy as a plan for the week to address your symptoms. Different strategies may include deep breathing, mindful meditation, guided imagery, positive affirmation, and progressive muscle relaxation. A strategy may not work immediately and that’s where the work of treatment takes place, the consistent, purposeful, dedicated application of strategies to ensure the best possible outcome.

CBT is empirically supported to help improve pain and change in clients’ lives.  

You may still have questions…

How long will it take to see results?

Like most things, the more you put in, the more you get out.  Treatment for chronic pain can move quickly with a willing and engaged client.  This form of counseling may require a certain amount of work outside of sessions to achieve maximum effectiveness, but the good news is that we will likely have fewer total sessions than traditional psychotherapy.  Clients usually need between 8-20 sessions to reach long-lasting mental health goals, but initial improvements often come in the first month. 

I can’t imagine my life without pain.  What if treatment is ineffective?  

Chronic pain does respond to mental health treatment, especially combined with other medical interventions.  If we make the choice to move away from negative thinking and avoidance, apply coping strategies, and work on movement and exercise, and are lucky enough to have skilled guidance along the way, chronic pain will be reduced.  The science is clear.  

It is normal to be afraid to fundamentally change our behavior and approach to pain.  Life without significant pain might be hard to imagine because it becomes so ingrained in our way of being. 

It is also right that your pain may never fully go away, but it can improve.  Seeking treatment is all about gaining lifelong skills to manage your pain.  

Chronic pain help is here.  

If you would like to schedule an appointment or discuss your needs, contact me at 630-360-8416. Feel free to reach out by text or phone whenever is convenient. Or you can email me at [email protected]