Psychological Approaches to Pain Management

Psychological Approaches to Pain Management

Psychological approaches to pain management focus on the role that thoughts, behaviour and emotions play in the experience of, and coping with pain. The role of physical/biological and social factors are also taken into account and a biopsychosocial model is used to understand and develop treatment plans.

Psychological Approaches to Pain Management

Two psychological approaches to pain management are described below.

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

  • Pain Monitoring and Graded Activity Scheduling
  • Relaxation
  • Stress Reduction
  • Guided Imagery
  • Safe/ Favourite Place
  • Distraction
  • Mindfulness
  • Cognitive Approaches to Pain Related Thoughts and Beliefs

2. Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) EMDR was originally developed as a treatment for Trauma. It is powerful psychological treatment method that was developed by an American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the 1980s. Since then a wealth of research has been conducted demonstrating its benefits in treating psychological trauma arising from experiences as diverse as assault, surgical trauma, road traffic accidents and workplace accidents. If the physical pain that is experienced, is related to a trauma, then EMDR can be a useful pain management treatment approach.


It is possible that a combination of both approaches would be the most effective. Following an initial assessment of the individual’s current difficulties a tailored approach will be developed. Pain tends to have an impact on the person experiencing it, but will often have an impact on partners and families. At times it may be helpful for sessions to include these people.