Chronic Pain Counselling, Therapy and CBT in St Albans/Hertfordshire and Online
Approximately 40% of the UK population suffers from chronic pain, which can vary in intensity from mild to severe. Chronic pain symptoms may fluctuate over time or persist consistently. It can arise from an injury or illness, lingering for months or even years. In some cases, the onset of chronic pain is gradual. Dealing with chronic pain itself can be challenging and unpleasant. However, it is further compounded by the need to make adjustments in daily life, often resulting in the inability to engage in previously enjoyed activities. Understandably, accepting these limitations can be difficult, leading to feelings of frustration, anger, irritability, stress, and sadness. Furthermore, chronic pain can strain relationships, adding another layer of stress.
You don't have to face these struggles alone. With over fifteen years of experience specialising in working with individuals dealing with chronic pain, I am here to support you. Together, we can explore strategies to manage your chronic pain, adapt to new circumstances, and regain a sense of control, ultimately improving your overall quality of life. It is my aim to provide you with the necessary tools and guidance to navigate the challenges associated with chronic pain, ensuring that you are not alone on this journey.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
The functioning of our nervous system and immune system is an intricate process that often goes unnoticed in our day-to-day lives. While we may not give it much thought, these systems tirelessly work in the background, ensuring our protection and survival. Behind the scenes, thousands of miles of nerve pathways and countless connections between nerves in our brain and body are constantly receiving and transmitting information. This information includes data about our environment, the internal state of our body, our thoughts, emotions, and actions. The brain, with its incredible capacity, processes this vast amount of information, making necessary adjustments to various bodily functions as needed. To accomplish this, the brain not only relies on present information but also draws upon our past experiences, fine-tuning its responses accordingly.
Chronic or persistent pain brings about significant changes in how our nervous and immune systems function. These systems become hypersensitive to all types of stimuli, causing activities or experiences that were previously pain-free to now elicit pain. Additionally, the brain initiates more pronounced "protective" reactions, such as pain, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties (often referred to as brain fog). These reactions can limit our ability to engage in certain activities and may persist for an extended period of time even after the activity is completed. While these responses are hardwired and serve an evolutionary purpose of protecting us, they unfortunately have a negative impact on our overall quality of life and functional abilities.
The nervous system undergoes a significant process of "rewiring" that leads to these changes, these changes can occur even without any actual damage to the body. In fact, they can persist even after an injury has fully healed. This highlights the complex nature of chronic pain, where the rewiring of the nervous system plays a major role in the experience of pain, regardless of the presence or absence of physical damage.
Psychological Therapy For Chronic Pain: What Does It Involve?
In the initial stages of therapy, it can be valuable to dedicate time with the help of your therapist to develop a deeper understanding of your challenges, their impact on your life, and your current coping mechanisms. The therapeutic setting provides a safe and non-judgmental space where you can freely express and share your difficult experiences. Additionally, you may find it beneficial to acquire coping strategies that empower you to effectively manage and regain control over your chronic pain. Extensive evidence supports the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in addressing chronic pain. Therefore, it is likely that I will incorporate concepts and coping strategies derived from these therapeutic approaches into our sessions if deemed suitable.
Seeking psychological therapy for your struggles with chronic pain does not imply that the reality of your physical experiences is being dismissed or diminished. On the contrary, I recognise that chronic pain has a genuine physiological basis and profoundly affects individuals. As evident from the earlier discussion, chronic pain extends beyond physical sensations and permeates various aspects of your life. Psychological therapy provides a supportive and non-judgmental environment where we can delve into these complexities. Together, we can explore strategies to cope with both the physical symptoms and their impact on your well-being. My goal is to assist you in gradually reclaiming activities that hold value for you, thereby expanding your life while ensuring a manageable approach.
How Long Does Psychological Therapy Last For Chronic Pain?
The duration of psychological therapy varies based on the severity of your struggles. For some individuals, significant benefits can be achieved in approximately six sessions, while others may require ongoing support over an extended period. Typically, a course of therapy may consist of six to twenty four sessions, tailored to address the specific severity of your struggles and your unique needs.
Benefits of Psychological Therapy For Chronic Pain
Scientific research and clinical expertise consistently demonstrate that Psychological Therapy for chronic pain can yield a wide range of positive outcomes, which may include:
Decreased levels of pain experienced
Enhanced functional abilities and improved overall functioning
Increased confidence in managing physical symptoms effectively
Reduction in the negative impact of chronic pain on various aspects of life
Improved overall quality of life and well-being
Amelioration of emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, anger, and stress levels
Enhanced interpersonal relationships and better communication
Greater capacity to engage in meaningful activities while minimising physical symptoms
Through the therapeutic process, individuals with chronic pain can develop valuable skills, coping mechanisms, and insights that empower them to better manage their condition and experience a more fulfilling life.
When I Should Get Help For My Chronic Pain?
Seeking therapy for chronic pain can be beneficial at any point along the journey, as these experiences can be profoundly demanding both physically and emotionally. However, it is common for individuals to turn to therapy when they find themselves in a state of despair, having exhausted medical avenues, grappling with inadequate self-management, lacking a sense of control, and experiencing significant adverse effects on their lives. These indicators strongly suggest that therapy can be a valuable resource. Yet, it is also worth considering reaching out for support during the earlier stages of your condition, as seeking assistance promptly can contribute to more effective pain management and a better overall outcome.
The Challenges Of Living With Chronic Pain
“It’s All In Your Head”
One common challenge individuals facing chronic pain often encounter is a lack of belief or understanding from healthcare providers, family members, friends, and colleagues. It is possible that you have received the message that your pain is "all in your head". This misunderstanding may partly stem from the fact that chronic pain is often invisible, making it difficult for others to grasp its reality. Additionally, doctors may struggle to identify the precise cause of the pain or provide a definitive diagnosis, further contributing to the frustration and lack of support you may experience.
Pressure To “Keep Up Appearances”
Individuals living with chronic pain often experience a sense of burden and may internalise the belief that they should be strong, independent, and not ask for help. Consequently, they may choose to hide their struggles from others. This self-imposed pressure to maintain appearances can be incredibly stressful and lead to taking on excessive responsibilities. Unfortunately, this can worsen physical symptoms and further contribute to the challenges of managing chronic pain.
Lack of Diagnosis
You may have received a clear diagnosis for your condition, or you might still be searching for answers. It is not uncommon for individuals to experience debilitating pain that medical professionals struggle to diagnose. The complexity of the human body and the involvement of multiple bodily systems can make it challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of certain conditions. Additionally, it is possible for physical investigations to reveal no abnormalities despite the presence of real physical symptoms. This frustrating situation can lead to a series of appointments where hopes are raised and then dashed when a definitive cause is not found.
Coming to terms with chronic pain and finding effective ways to manage it can be a challenging journey. It's common to feel a sense of powerlessness as chronic pain can disrupt your life and make you feel like things are beyond your control. The emotional toll of chronic pain can be significant, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, frustration, low self-esteem, and anger. These emotional difficulties, combined with the physical symptoms, can have a profound impact on various aspects of your life, including relationships, leisure activities, and work. It's not uncommon for life to become restricted as a result, further impacting your emotional well-being. It's important to note that certain chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, can even worsen in response to higher levels of distress. It's essential to understand that these physical health problems are not "all in your head"; they are very much real and have a physiological basis.
Chronic pain has the ability to erode people's confidence, impacting various aspects of their lives. One area where confidence can be affected is mobility. Chronic pain can limit a person's ability to move comfortably, leading to concerns about managing in different situations. For instance, individuals may worry about visiting new places or socialising, unsure of how they will cope if their symptoms worsen while they are away from home. These uncertainties can create anxiety about navigating unfamiliar settings and the practicalities of getting back home safely.
Helpful Chronic Pain Resources:
If you would like to see a chronic pain therapist for chronic pain treatment in St Albans/Hertfordshire or online please email me at email@example.com or complete the webform below.
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