Benefits of Psychotherapy for Chronic Pain
Psychological services are a standard and helpful component of a patient's overall treatment program. This is due to the fact that pain creates a tremendous amount of stress in an individual's life. Pain sensations are often experienced as stressful, frustrating, and anxiety-provoking. Pain can also lead to a wide range of changes, complications, and losses in many areas of life. For example, our patients commonly report that their pain interferes with leisure and hobbies, with family and marital relationship, and with work and finances. There are few areas of life that are not affected by chronic pain!
Stress and pain conditions
Over time, however, high levels of chronic stress can worsen pain and other symptoms that patients experience, such as poor sleep or difficulties with memory and concentration. Stress exacerbates pain conditions just as it exacerbates heart disease and other medical conditions. At the same time, stress depletes an individual's inner resources (their energy, motivation, hope) for managing their condition effectively.
Developing behavioural strategies
To break this vicious circle, a psychologist works with patients to help them develop behavioural strategies to keep their levels of pain and stress as low and steady as possible. In a sense, individuals are taught to function as their own psychologists day to day. Strategies that help our patients minimize their levels of pain and stress include relaxation training, mindfulness meditation, cognitive therapy, pacing, physical exercise, assertiveness, and others. Over the past several years, scientific research has shown that psychological treatments can help improve the quality of life among individuals with persisting pain conditions.