What Is Pain Psychology & What Do We Do?

Our pain psychologists use only evidence-based interventions to help people learn how to manage their chronic pain most effectively.


Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is based on the theory that our emotional and behavioral reactions to situations are strongly influenced by how we perceive and think about those situations.  Treatment with CBT involves working with patients to understand how their particular thought patterns can contribute to depression, anxiety, and the stress of chronic pain.  Patients then learn how to change those thought patterns to alleviate the emotional distress that often goes along with chronic pain.  Research has shown that CBT for the treatment of depression can work as well as medications but without the risk of relapse after discontinuation.  In studies of people with chronic pain, research has shown that CBT can result in improved mood, improved functional status, and decreased pain.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach to treating people with chronic pain that involves two basic but interrelated processes.  The first process involves helping people learn how to Accept the aspects of their pain that they cannot change.  The second process involves helping people to Commit themselves to living in accordance with their values in order to give greater meaning to their lives, even when they are living with chronic pain.  Research has shown that ACT for the treatment of chronic pain can result in greater acceptance of pain, higher levels of physical functioning, lower levels of depression and anxiety, and improved quality of life.


Chronic Pain Self-Management involves using a combination of methods that have all been shown to be effective in helping people learn how to manage their chronic pain more effectively.  The methods that are most commonly used include CBT, ACT, relaxation training, stress management, and activity pacing.


Group Therapy for Chronic Pain.  In addition to individual sessions, we also offer a group pain management program.  The group program at Missouri Baptist Medical Center is called PRISM, which stands for Pain Rehabilitation through Improved Self-Management.  The PRISM program meets weekly and allows small groups of people (typically 5-10) with chronic pain to meet and learn more effective ways to manage their pain.  The entire program lasts 10 weeks, and each weekly meeting last 90 minutes.  The sessions are led primarily by the pain psychologist, although additional sessions are led by a yoga therapist as well as a mindfulness meditation trainer.  Session topics include theories of chronic pain, relaxation strategies, stress management, activity pacing, CBT, and ACT.  Participants also benefit from group discussions that allow them to learn from others who truly understand the complex experience of chronic pain.