Chronic pain is considered to be a pain that has been present for several months, or that someone is still experiencing after recovering from an injury (Ramage-Morin & Gilmour, 2010). Examples of chronic pain can include arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, and nerve damage, though chronic pain can show itself in various areas of the body and manifest in several different ways (Santos-Longhurst, 2018).
As much as this type of pain can be debilitating for clients on an emotional, psychological, and physical level, it’s also a condition that can benefit from counselling services. Here’s how those in counsellor therapist training can best assist clients living with chronic pain.
Numerous Symptoms Can Manifest Themselves to Indicate Chronic Pain in Clients
Although clients may not always disclose the fact that they suffer from chronic pain when they are looking for counselling, there are certain symptoms that they may experience. These can include anxiety, extreme stress, depression, a history of traumatic life events, and a tendency to catastrophize (Farver-Smith, 2015). Chronic pain can also be caused by and be associated with several different physiological factors, including cancer, strain injuries, and bad posture, and can also develop along with a mental health condition—particularly depression (“Chronic pain”, 2019).
In many cases, clients who experience chronic pain can benefit from counselling services (Farver-Smith, 2015). Counselling can help clients not only challenge negative thoughts on their pain, but also help with cultivating positive lifestyle changes and developing new techniques for coping with the pain (“Managing Chronic Pain: How psychologists can help with pain management”).
Certain Techniques Can Be Employed by Professionals with Counsellor Therapist Training
Taking skills that you’ve learned in counsellor therapist training, such as helping clients identify certain things preventing them from achieving wellness, can help you when working with those living with chronic pain. There are many different strategies that you can employ when working with this population. For example, it’s important to encourage clients to not make judgements on their pain. It can also be a good idea to discuss the possibility of them doing mindfulness or group therapy, and to be as patient as possible when working with them (Farver-Smith, 2015).
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also be helpful for those with chronic pain, because it can help clients reframe and challenge their negative thoughts and behaviours, and alter how they view their pain, giving them better skills with which to cope (Bowers, 2011). Furthermore, cognitive behavioural approaches have evidence supporting their effectiveness in helping those with chronic pain, and have been shown to help improve conditions related to chronic pain (Eccleston, Morley, & Williams, 2013). Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) has also been seen to help reduce chronic pain’s weight on a person’s quality of life, in that it helps them to develop feelings of acceptance for their pain symptoms so they can resume enjoying and pursuing activities in life (Trompetter, Bohlmeijer, Veehof, & Schreurs, 2014).
For Clients Experiencing Chronic Pain, Counselling Has Proven to Be Effective
Counselling services have shown good results in helping this population to accept, manage, and live with their condition. For example, clients with temporomandibular disorders have been shown in studies to have benefitted from counselling services where they were given counsel on diet, sleep, and parafunctional activity and habits. It was also seen as effective in decreasing their pain intensity (de Barros Pascoal, de Freitas, da Silva, Oliveira, & Dos Santos Calderon, 2019).
There has also been research in favour of those with chronic pain joining support groups, as it can help clients take more responsibility for managing their pain symptoms, and can help decrease the need for medical intervention (Arthur & Edwards, 2005).
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Ramage-Morin, P. L., & Gilmour, H. (2010). Chronic pain at ages 12 to 44. Health Reports, Component of Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 82-003-X, 21(4).
de Barros Pascoal, A. L., de Freitas, R. F. C. P., da Silva, L. F. G., Oliveira, A. G. R. C., & Dos Santos Calderon, P. (2019, April 12). Effectiveness of Counseling on Chronic Pain Management in Patients with Temporomandibular Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30978270.
Farver-Smith, B. (2015, July 27). Techniques for counseling clients who have chronic pain. Retrieved from https://ct.counseling.org/2015/07/techniques-for-counseling-clients-who-have-chronic-pain/.
Bowers, E. S. (2011, June 27). Managing Chronic Pain: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/cognitive-behavioral.
Arthur, A. R., & Edwards, C. (2005). An evaluation of support groups for patients with long-term chronic pain and complex psychosocial difficulties. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 7(3), 169–180. doi: 10.1080/13642530500249761
Eccleston, C., Morley, S., & Williams, A. (2013). Psychological approaches to chronic pain management: evidence and challenges. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 111(1), 59–63. doi: 10.1093/bja/aet207
Santos-Longhurst, A. (2018, November 29). Types of Pain: Classifications and Examples to Help Describe Your Pain. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-pain#chronic-pain.
Managing Chronic Pain: How psychologists can help with pain management. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/pain-management.
Chronic pain. (2019, June 6). Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://welldoing.org/therapy/chronic-pain.
Trompetter, H. R., Bohlmeijer, E. T., Veehof, M. M., & Schreurs, K. M. G. (2014). Internet-based guided self-help intervention for chronic pain based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 38(1), 66–80. doi: 10.1007/s10865-014-9579-0
Staelin, R., Koneru, S. N., & Rawe, I. M. (2019). A Prospective Six-Month Study of Chronic Pain Sufferers: A Novel OTC Neuromodulation Therapy. Pain Research and Management, 2019, 1–11. doi: 10.1155/2019/315419