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Pain Management - Psychology

We are a team of Clinical and Counselling Psychologists providing a specialist psychology service to those affected by chronic pain. We see people whose psychological health is affecting their emotional wellbeing, making their health worse or affecting their ability to receive medical treatment.

What is a Psychologist?

Clinical and Counselling Psychologists aim to reduce psychological distress and promote psychological and physical well-being. We have specialist doctoral training in the application of scientific knowledge to reduce distress and promote psychological wellbeing. Our extensive training allows us to conduct detailed assessments and develop a plan to help based on an individual understanding of someone's difficulties, rather than on a diagnosis alone.

Why might you be referred to a Psychologist?

Being referred to a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist does not mean that your pain is not real or that it is “in your mind”. However, pain is complex and can affect people in a number of ways, not just physically. Living with chronic pain can affect your mood and this can in turn affect how you are able to manage your pain.

Psychologists work alongside you and other members of the pain management team (such as Doctors, Physiotherapists, Nurses and Occupational Therapists) to help you manage your pain.

What should I expect when I see a Psychologist?

When you first see a Psychologist, time is spent talking to you about what led to your referral to psychology and what you think the difficulties you are facing are. Your appointment would normally last between 45-50 minutes.

The Psychologist will ask some questions about your life at the moment, including what has brought you to the appointment, and what is going well for you. You may be asked some questions about your background to help understand how your difficulties came about, and what life was like before you had these difficulties.

There are a number of assumptions that people often make about psychology, so we would like to put your mind at rest. For example, Psychologists are not mind readers, we do not have a couch that we expect you to lie down on. Our job is to help to understand and treat psychological difficulties related to a physical health problem, and to improve quality of life.

What happens next?

During the assessment appointment we will discuss the pain and your mood and talk with you about what might be the most appropriate form of help for you and the team will ask you whether this is what you want or not. The options available to you after attending the appointment include:

  1. Being placed on the waiting list for a series of individual appointments with one of the Psychologists. This may involve being on a waiting list for some time, however the team try to keep this down to a minimum.
  2. Being placed on the waiting list for group intervention focusing on psychological flexibility and valued engagement in life alongside pain. Our group is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or “ACT” (pronounced as the word “act”, not the letters a-c-t) which is well suited to helping people address the challenges presented by chronic pain.
  3. Talking to you about other services or organisations that may be able to help you. You may be able to refer yourself to these services or they may require a referral from your GP.

What treatments are offered?

The team provide talking therapy using a range of evidence-based psychological approaches including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion-Focused Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy informed therapy (CAT), solution-focused therapy, mindfulness, hypnosis, and systemic therapy.

The type of approach that is offered to you will depend upon the nature of your difficulties. Where appropriate, we follow guidelines for evidence-based treatment (approaches that have been shown to work) so that we offer you the most suitable option. It is also important that you tell us what you think will be helpful for you, and whether anything in the past has been of benefit.

Psychologist’s work usually aims to help a patient to adjust to and manage pain by;

  • Increasing your knowledge of how pain works
  • Understanding why we feel anxiety and tension

And by helping you to learn skills such as;

  • Relaxation
  • Pacing activities
  • Goal setting
  • Problem solving

The psychologist may also help you to work through the life events and stresses that may be making the pain worse and harder to cope with.

How are people referred to Psychology?

Some people are referred directly by their GP, but most of our referrals come from within the Pain Clinic from Consultants, Nurses, Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists.

If you are referred by a member of the pain clinic, you will usually be given a leaflet explaining a little more about what psychology offers and helps you think about whether this is the right service for you. If you decide that you would like to be offered an assessment appointment, there is a telephone number to call by the date shown on the front of the leaflet. We will then book an appointment for you in the next available assessment clinic.

If we do not hear from you by the date shown on this leaflet then we will assume that you do not want a psychology appointment and you will not be placed on our waiting list.

If you decide not to attend the psychology appointment your consultant and GP will be informed of this. A re-referral would be needed if you wanted to be seen in the future.

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