Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT for pain management has three basic components. The first is a treatment rationale that helps patients understand that cognitions and behavior can affect the pain experience and emphasizes the role that patients can play in controlling their own pain.

The second component of CBT is coping skills training. Training is provided in wide variety of cognitive and behavioral pain coping strategies. Progressive relaxation and cue-controlled brief relaxation exercises are used to decrease muscle tension, reduce emotional distress, and divert attention from pain. Activity pacing and pleasant activity scheduling are used to help patients increase the level and range of their activities. Training in distraction techniques such as pleasant imagery, counting methods, and use of a focal point helps patients learn to divert attention away from severe pain episodes. Cognitive restructuring is used to help patients identify and challenge overly negative pain-related thoughts and to replace these thoughts with more adaptive, coping thoughts.

The third component of CBT involves the application and maintenance of learned coping skills. During this phase of treatment, patients are encouraged to apply their coping skills to a progressively wider range of daily situations. Patients are taught problem solving methods that enable them to analyze and develop plans for dealing with pain flares and other challenging situations. Self-monitoring and behavioral contracting methods also are used to prompt and reinforce frequent coping skills practice.

CBT for pain management is typically carried out in both individual and small group sessions. CBT is typically led by a psychologist or psychologist-nurse educator.

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