How psychological treatments work

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Psychological therapies can support people in reducing pain by helping them manage stress, relax tense muscles and distract themselves from painful sensations.

The goal of psychological treatments is to help you return to what you love to do and manage the impact of your pain in a healthy way. This process involves:

  1. recognizing what you value most in life;

  2. setting goals based on those life values;

  3. making a plan based on those goals;

  4. gently striving to follow that plan every day, gradually increasing what you are able to do.

When psychological methods of pain management are suggested, it does not mean that your healthcare team thinks your pain is “in your head” or imagined. Psychological methods are just one of the three essential approaches to managing pain effectively and are considered for all people with chronic pain.

How a psychologist can help you manage chronic pain

Psychologists are healthcare professionals who are trained to use different approaches and techniques to help people with chronic pain manage the impact of their pain and improve their quality of life.

By doing careful assessments tailored to each patient, psychologists can help you identify factors in your life that result from, and contribute to, chronic pain. After they identify specific factors, your psychologist will help you manage them by teaching you different pain and stress management techniques. Psychological services may be free in tertiary care clinics (such as specialist clinics in a hospital), but they are often not free in private clinics.

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