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Pain Psychology



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“I’m in pain, why do you want me to see a psychologist?”

If you have been referred to one of our psychologists or staff psychotherapists at the Bay Area Pain and Wellness Center, it is not because your doctor thinks you are crazy or the pain is in your head. Rather, you have been referred because our experience, and the scientific data, has shown us that working with the whole person to manage their pain is much more effective than medical treatment alone. Our behavioral health team is uniquely trained to work with you in developing a total lifestyle plan for managing your pain.

What Do Health Psychologists do?

Generally, treatment with a health psychologist is time limited (6-12 sessions on average) focusing on ways for you to manage your pain and live a fulfilling life despite the pain. You are not going to be lying on a couch revisiting your childhood in depth. Issues from the past are discussed only as they relate to your pain management.

Our center is committed to providing the highest level of patient service. From it’s inception, our clinicians have placed an emphasis on providing medical services that make sense from the patient’s perspective.

Before beginning treatment with our behavioral staff, your first visit will usually be an evaluation with one of our psychologists, either Dr. Kimeron Hardin or Dr. Greg Garavanian. The entire evaluation typically consists of an interview about your pain, its effect on your life and what your life was like before you had pain. It usually takes about one hour. In some cases, the psychologist will also request that you complete paperwork that can help determine whether or not you are depressed, excessively anxious or having difficulty adapting to living with pain. After the evaluation follow up appointments are scheduled with Dr. Hardin, Dr. Garavanian, or Christine Endo, MFTI.

Treatment from a health psychologist include:

Treating depression/anxiety/anger or other troubling mood states.

The area in your brain where you perceive pain is closely connected to the emotional centers of the brain, at least partially explaining why most people with pain have disturbance in their mood. Health psychologists will teach you tools to better manage depression, anxiety, anger and other troubling feelings.

Adjusting to changes in your life due to pain.

Chronic pain tends to bring about significant changes in your life, such as limiting your activity level or ability to fulfill life roles, such as mom, breadwinner or spouse, or maintaining the responsibilities you had before the pain. Health psychologists help people to find meaning and fulfillment in their lives despite the pain.

Using the power of your mind to manage the pain better.

Ever notice that the pain you feel with a stubbed toe is different when it happens in front of a room full of strangers than when you are home alone after a particularly bad day? This has to do with things like attitude towards the pain, your belief in your ability to manage the pain, your ability to distract from the pain and what you are telling yourself when you have pain. Health psychologists help people build confidence in themselves and to promote independence and lessen anxiety about the pain and the future.

Teaching stress management and relaxation techniques.

Most people in pain tend to live in a state of chronic stress. Inevitably, your body is exhausted from living in pain and your mind is taxed from living with worry. Health psychologists help you to relax your mind and body by teaching you how to manage the stressors in your life that may maintain or intensify your pain. Specific stress management methods include relaxation techniques such as abdominal breathing, progressive muscle releasing, and guided imagery, which have been proven to be effective for people in chronic pain.

Health psychologists are specialized in treating people with chronic pain and aware of the issues they commonly face, such as depression, anxiety, worries about the future, finances, and making decisions around medical treatments. They are often very helpful to people who have pain.

If you have more questions about what health psychologists do and how they help people in pain, please ask your provider or ask to speak directly with one of the health psychologists or staff psychotherapists.