A Breakthrough for Chronic Pain Sufferers: Psychotherapy

Whether it’s a bad back, achy knees, or a site of previous physical trauma, chronic pain is a problem endured by scores of people. Many find themselves debilitated or unable to enjoy a previous lifestyle as a result. The standard treatment of painkillers can lead to serious addictions and significant expense that trap the sufferer between pain and being chained to a drug.

But as Robert Kerns of Yale University recently revealed, chronic pain sufferers can take advantage of a different kind of treatment with none of the side effects of painkillers and with benefits that can last a lifetime. Psychotherapy can be an excellent way to help people overcome their personal battles with chronic pain.

Kerns and his research team performed in-depth analyses of 22 modern studies surrounding chronic pain, and found that cognitive behavioral therapy was able to ease painful symptoms as well as alleviate associated problems such as depression. Alternative therapies including biofeedback and hypnosis were also effective, though the long-term benefits of CBT were not as evident in these cases.

The researchers highlighted the ability of psychotherapy to help chronic pain sufferers:

  • Learn to cope with their sensations
  • Create personal practices for control and calm
  • Understand their own abilities to manage the problem

Creating mental exercises and thought patterns that could be replicated in the home, along with meditation, were deemed especially valuable. Some people with unexamined notions about the nature of therapy may feel threatened to approach a psychiatric practice for their condition. However, many more are finding their fears unfounded as they discover how to live well with their pain while remaining far from drug dependency.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Paul

    Paul

    February 17th, 2009 at 2:13 PM

    My dad has really benefitted from seeing a counselor to help address not only his physical pain but what this has cost him on an emotional level too. I recommend this for anyone as I see what a difference it has made for him.

  • LE

    LE

    February 18th, 2009 at 12:01 PM

    What exactly is biofeedback? Is there anyone who can explain this to me?

  • Jackie

    Jackie

    February 19th, 2009 at 3:36 PM

    Are there really going to be enough physicians familiar enough with this to even make the suggestion for a patient to go to therapy? That may take some really good bedside manner otherwise there will be many patients who then feel that the doctor thinks that the pain is just all in their heads and they could be offended and just go to another doctor who is willing to continue prescribing medications to them. We have become such a medicated society that many of us shun the notion that there are often better ways of managing pain than just by taking painkillers. It is going to take some pretty convincing doctors to set this trend in motion I am afraid.

  • Barbara

    Barbara

    February 20th, 2009 at 4:00 AM

    Too many doctors have egos that will not allow them to admit that other therapies could be more beneficial to patients than what they are prescribing.

  • Hillary

    Hillary

    February 27th, 2009 at 6:56 AM

    I do think the doctor needs to be an expert with diplomacy to even suggest this. A lot of people might misconstrue that the doctor thinks they are hypochondriacs.

  • Reggie

    Reggie

    February 28th, 2009 at 6:24 AM

    On the contrary, my doctor suggested psychotherapy for my mother who was dying of cancer. Better than all the pain killers was the therapy. She is gone today but she definitely fought with courage and was in a good frame of mind till the end. I thank the psychotherapist for that.

  • Rennie

    Rennie

    March 13th, 2009 at 2:31 AM

    I am all for psychotherapy and think it’s a wonderful idea. I just wonder how much of the pain we can associate it with in past lives, and I know not many people believe in past lives, but I have read a lot about it and it does make sense. I think this is where past life regression and hypnosis could help.

  • Maurice F Prout

    Maurice F Prout

    November 29th, 2009 at 11:51 PM

    Not getting the sleep I need has at times really affected my life. It is horrible. As Cassie said you feel like you have been given a good kicking in the morning. Nancy, insomnia can be hard to cure, but that is why I guess they have looked to cognitive behavior therapy. CBT has shown great results in other behavior disorders. I have indirectly experienced these results and was so impressed that I decided to conduct some research on my own into this field. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Dr. Prout’s work on CBT. I am excited by these studies conducted by the University of Washington and will look into finding a CBT therapist to combat my sleeping problems.

  • Admin

    Admin

    September 9th, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    @LE You can learn more about Biofeedback on our page, here https://www.goodtherapy.org/biofeedback-neurofeedback.html

    Best,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

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