Counselling For Chronic Pain


Pain is a natural and very important function of the human body, but chronic pain isn’t.

As well as the physical symptoms, chronic pain can have a massive emotional impact on a person and those surrounding them.

A person may experience many feelings and emotions such as:-

·         Loss

·         Anger

·         Resentment

·         Frustration

·         Grief

Emotions can become so overwhelming that they prevent the person from seeing any way out and it becomes a cycle of negative emotions and pain – the negative emotions can even be a direct cause of pain in some conditions.

However, with a good understanding of the issues related to the pain, a good medical team and support network, chronic pain can be managed and people can still live happy and fulfilling lives.


So How Can Counselling Help?

Chronic pain is a very personal experience, as each individual will perceive and experience the pain differently. It therefore follows that how it is managed is also a personal process.

This is where counselling can help. It can:-

·         Provide a place where individuals can really focus on themselves and their experiences of pain and the emotions that come with it;

·         Help a person to focus on positive aspects of their life and begin the process of acceptance of the losses they have experienced as a result of having chronic pain

·         Help the person develop a new sense of identity and build self-esteem and self-worth;

·         Help the person regain a sense of control and move towards a more positive and happy life.


Types of Counselling

There are too many different types of counselling to list here but two types that can help with chronic pain are Person-Centered counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT):


Person-Centered (P-C) Counselling

·         Chronic pain is an individual experience and P-C counselling will focus on each individual’s circumstances and experiences of pain;

·         A P-C counsellor does not expect one chronic pain sufferer to have the same experiences of pain as another;

·         A P-C counsellor believes that each individual needs to examine their own unique experiences of pain and that they have the ability and potential to make the right choices for themselves;

·         It therefore follows that a P-C counsellor is non-directive – in other words they will not provide the ‘answers’ that a person seeks, they will work alongside the person in order that they can identify these for themselves;

·         To facilitate this, a P-C counsellor is trained to provide a number of elements within the counselling room and believes that if these are present then the client can find the answers and achieve the goals that they seek;

·         The elements are:

Ø  Empathy - the counsellor will attempt to ‘walk in the other person’s shoes’ and experience things from their perspective;

Ø  Acceptance – the counsellor will be non-judgemental and accepting of the person and what they talk about in counselling;

Ø  Genuineness – the counsellor will be open, honest and transparent within the counselling relationship.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

·         CBT is a more directive approach that focuses on identifying the persons’ thoughts about chronic pain and how these thoughts influence behaviour patterns and emotional reactions to the pain;

·         The CBT therapist aims to help the person to change the way that they view their pain, working through the person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviours and developing coping strategies to deal with the pain on a day to day basis;

·         The therapist may set the person ‘homework’ after each session, such as keeping a diary of the pain or some other kind of exercise related to that particular individual.


Many counselling services, provide ‘general’ counselling that includes seeing those who suffer from chronic pain. However, it may be beneficial for those who suffer from chronic pain to attempt to identify a counselling service that specialises in this area.

Written by: Kelly Porch (Kettering Counselling Service) 02.04.15


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