Managing Chronic Pain with Psychotherapy

Some people might be surprised to learn that a psychotherapist is a valuable ally to have when dealing with chronic pain management. After all, how can something be “in your head” if you can feel it all over your body? However, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective method of pain management for many clients.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of talk therapy that helps those in pain identify and develop skills to alter negative behaviors and thoughts. By changing a client’s perception of pain and their emotions regarding their condition, they can develop healthy coping skills that make managing pain easier.

How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Helps

CBT is often used in conjunction with other methods of pain management like medication, massage, and physical therapy. In fact, research has shown that it’s often found to be the most effective method for individuals with all types of chronic pain. Research also suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy can change the brain’s response to pain, lessening symptoms and the physical impact of pain on the body.

When it comes to pain relief, (cognitive behavioural therapy CBT) helps by:

  • Encouraging Problem Solving: For many, it’s mind over matter. A psychotherapist will work with clients to help them feel more in control of their situation. Clients learn constructive coping techniques to change negative thought patterns, emotions, and behaviours stemming from pain.
  • Journaling: To keep track of thoughts and emotions to discuss during sessions, psychotherapists might ask clients to keep a journal. This helps dissect and tackle thoughts and feelings associated with pain, and provides the client with an emotional outlet.
  • Coping Skills: Research suggests that 30 – 50% of those living with chronic pain also struggle with depression or anxiety. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) teaches patients coping mechanisms that can help them manage these feelings long after sessions have ended.

As with other applications for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapists want patients to walk away with the ability to “be their own therapist.” Patients learn a set of principles and techniques that can be applied to a variety of different situations, such as coping with stress at the doctor’s office or needing to rely on loved ones for support.

Like other forms of CBT, patients don’t need to attend sessions long-term in order to benefit from this form of talk therapy. Sessions can either be one-on-one or in groups, with treatment ranging from a few sessions to a few months or years (depending on the individual).

Trained Psychotherapist

With advanced training in chronic pain management, trauma counselling, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Melissa Cutler has spent two decades helping clients rebuild their lives. She specializes in helping clients and loved ones navigate through uncertainty and adjustment following brain injury, stroke, and concussion.

After spending years gaining clinical and research experience across hospital, community, and public sector settings, including as a social worker, she provides patients with the best evidence-based treatment options.

Book online for a psychotherapy appointment at her office on Yonge and Lawrence near the subway.