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How can a psychologist help with pain management? 

Psychological factors play a large role in pain management. Psychological approaches have been shown, in numerous studies, to help people with pain improve the quality of their lives. In particular, it has been shown that patients who work with a psychologist increase functioning in many life domains, such as activities of daily living, emotional health, and interpersonal relationships, and result in decreased pain symptoms. Following psychological treatment, patients often report that they are more active, less depressed, less anxious, and feel more in control. It has also been shown that psychotherapy can reduce health care utilization and help patients adhere to treatment recommendations.  

Could I benefit from therapy?

Making a decision to see a psychologist can be a difficult one. Many people feel uncomfortable about the prospect of talking about things that are distressing or even embarrassing to a complete stranger. On the other hand, people often find it much easier to tell their problems to someone they do not know and who has no expectations of them. It is important that you find the best approach for you and the initial evaluation will provide you with an opportunity to determine if you could benefit from psychotherapy.

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but these are some common reasons why people see a psychologist: 

  • Normal but emotionally painful reactions/distress (such as depression, anxiety, anger/hostility, decreased sense of self-worth, stress) that have occurred as a result of pain condition.
  • Behavioural or emotional obstacles to making recommended lifestyle changes (difficulty adhering to treatment plans, lack of motivation, pain beliefs, pain-related anxiety and avoidance).
  • Preexisting emotional/psychological issues that worsen the experience of physical symptoms
  • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or having trouble staying asleep throughout the night)