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Behavioral Health

Behavioral Health (3)

02 Nov

For some, seeing a behavioral health provider may seem like an odd way to treat pain. After all, the pain is in your body – your back, your neck, your joints – not all in your head. But studies have shown that incorporating a psychologist into a multidisciplinary pain treatment plan can actually result in much better outcomes than just seeing a doctor. So the question remains: How does psychology, a science focused on the human mind, help improve pain, a condition of the body? For many, the answer lies in a type of therapy know as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Overview of CBT

CBT is based on the cognitive model, an idea that the way we mentally frame our experiences affects the way we feel and act. The goal of CBT is to identify distorted thinking (negative or erroneous thought patterns) and begin to challenge them and replace them with more realistic – and positive – thoughts. Unlike Freudian psychoanalysis, which explores childhood experiences to get to the core of issues, CBT focuses on thoughts in an attempt to improve mood, behavior and even pain levels.

For example, according to APM licensed psychologist Mary Papandria, pain sufferers may think such distorted thoughts as “I can’t live with this,” “This is too much,” “I’m being punished” or “I’ll never be happy again.” Being able to identify these thoughts when they occur and utilize effective methods to overcome them is the goal of CBT.

First Session

CBT typically takes less time than other behavioral therapies, with most patients receiving treatment for roughly 8-10 sessions, according to Dr. Papandria. The first session is similar to an initial doctor’s visit in that the provider will evaluate a patient’s history of pain and other medical issues. They will also delve into social and educational history and will evaluate the patient’s current psychological condition and coping strategies.

“During this evaluation, I often get a good sense of how the person deals and copes with their pain, their viewpoint on life and illness and how well they have adjusted to their pain,” says Dr. Papandria.

Recognizing and Challenging

Once the provider has a good grasp of the patient’s thought processes and cognitive distortions, he or she can provide exercises that allow the patient to identify these episodes on their own. Dr. Papandria uses a set of steps called Challenging Cognitive Distortions. This process allows individuals to identify erroneous or destructive thinking patterns, evaluate the proof for and against it, then begin to replace these thoughts with more realistic ones.

Dr. Papandria gives the example of “I can’t live with this pain,” a common thought among pain sufferers. When going through the Challenging Cognitive Distortions steps, a patient would provide proof against this idea, like that they have lived with this pain for a while, that they do take steps to minimize the pain, that they have had happy moments even with the pain and that they are actually adjusting to life with pain. Over time, doing this makes it easier for people to recognize – and refute – their negative thought patterns.

“For patients who use this exercise daily,” says Dr. Papandria, “they have less depression, rate their pain at a lower level and feel they are in control of how they feel both physically and psychologically.

Utilizing CBT can also lead to a plethora of other benefits, including helping you improve communication with loved ones and co-workers, allowing you to become more active, helping you re-engage in hobbies and improving your mood, sleep, appetite and overall ability to cope with pain. After CBT, says Dr. Papandria, patients “begin to believe that they are in control of their lives and that pain is not in the driver’s seat.

By combining interventional treatments with cognitive ones, multidisciplinary providers are able to address pain on multiple fronts, helping patients achieve a higher level of relief and function.

Get moving. Call (888) 901-PAIN (7246) or click to schedule a consultation now.

01 Nov

The New Year is nigh – and with it comes all the New Year’s resolutions. But instead of the typical resolutions, which always seem to get broken within the first month, consider setting some achievable goals that will not only lead to a happier you in 2017, but a more pain-free one, too!

  1. Weed out the negative Nancys in your life.

    “If the people in your life are demanding and not very supportive, then it could actually make things worse,” says APM behavioral health specialist Mary Papandria. Make your goal this year be to surround yourself with individuals who understand your situation and support you unconditionally. Whether this is friends, family members or even a support group dedicated to others in the same boat, seek them out and accept the support they offer. A strong support network can often make it much easier to cope with chronic pain.
  2. Banish pessimism.

    Negative thoughts – like “this pain is stopping me from living my life” or “I feel useless when I’m in so much pain” – don’t do anyone any good, especially you. Don’t let your negative thoughts and emotions overcome you in 2017. Make it a point to focus on the positive things happening in your life. One way to achieve this is to write a list of all the positive things happening in your life. Enjoy the company of your new grandchild? Write it down. Looking forward to a new movie or TV show this year? Add it to the list. Go over and add to the list every morning, or whenever you’re feeling down.
  3. Find little ways to incorporate activity.

    The problem with a lot of weight-related resolutions is that they’re too big. Something like “lose 30 pounds this year” is such a tall order that many people give up before they even really try. So start small; small changes can result in big outcomes. Make small resolutions for yourself – like working out three times this week, parking farther away from the store on two trips or taking the stairs instead of the elevator four times. These small goals – which are easier to accomplish – will result in a sense of accomplishment and will go toward helping you achieve your larger health and weight goals.
  4. Focus on your relationships.

    According to Dr. Papandria, “Oftentimes, those in pain become fixated on their pain. That’s all they talk about, think about, focus on. Their world becomes smaller and smaller … [and] they have little time or attention for other people in their lives.” This can lead to a myriad of relationship difficulties, especially amongst families. So in 2017, break the cycle. It starts with communication; tell your partner, friends and family what you need and encourage them to do the same. Just like your weight goals, set small relationship goals like two date nights or family game nights a month during which you won’t talk about your pain. If you’re still having difficulty, consider seeing a behavioral health specialist, who will be able to help you refocus your attention away from your pain and toward the people and things that really matter.
  5. Adopt a new hobby.

    There are times when your pain is all you can think about. But putting all your energy into thinking and worrying about it won’t help you feel better. According to Dr. Papandria, although it might seem difficult, try to refocus your attention away from the pain. That’s where a new hobby comes in. Pick something that’s all-consuming and will capture and hold your attention for long periods. Maybe it’s painting or quilting, learning to play the piano or finally learning to speak Italian; choose an activity that leaves no room in your brain to focus on your pain. Getting your brain off of it is often one of the best ways to deal with it – it may also help you bond with those you love and improve yourself and your skillset in the process.
  6. Get help.

    Knowing that you are doing all you can to reduce you pain is a comforting feeling. But many people have become so frustrated at doctors and treatments and the lack of successful outcomes that they’ve given up. This isn’t helpful – for you or your pain levels. Make it your goal in 2017 to get some answers – and get some relief. There are new, innovative treatment options for many complicated and chronic pain conditions; talk to your doctor about pain management or call (888) 901-PAIN to learn more about your options. Make 2017 the year of a healthier, happier, more pain-free you.

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31 Oct

When you suffer with chronic pain, there are good days and there are bad days. On the good days, you can do what you need to do – go to work, pick up the kids, clean the house. But on the bad days it can be difficult to even get out of bed.  Not only is the pain itself overwhelming, but the mental toll it takes can leave you wondering “How do I go on?” On these inevitable days when life seems bleak, there are some relatively simple things you can do to help pick yourself up and keep fighting. Here are five such methods.

  1. Surround yourself with supportive people.

    If you are the type of person who finds comfort in being around others, seek them out. Although it may be tempting to hide yourself away from friends and family, try to resist that urge. But make sure you are surrounding yourself with the right kind of people. According to APM behavioral health specialist Mary Papandria, “If the people in your life are demanding and not very supportive, then it could actually make things worse.” Seek out people who are patient and understanding – whether that’s friends or members of a support group.
  2. Breathe.

    Deep breathing may sound simplistic, but it’s an effective way to deal with intense pain. Dr. Papandria suggests breathing in for a count of four, then breathing out for a count of four. So why is this an effective coping mechanism? “Deep breathing helps the person go from a stress response to a relaxation response,” she says. It’s also a method of distraction; if a person is entirely focused on counting and breathing, they can’t be focused on their pain.
  3. Make a list of the good things in your life.

    One of the keys to pulling yourself out of depressive moods is overcoming your negative thought patterns. When you catch yourself thinking “It hurts so much. Nothing is working. I can’t handle this anymore,” stop and take a step back. Get a pen and piece of paper and just start writing a list of all the positive things you have in your life, whether that’s your loving family, your job, a pet or anything else. Use this to remind yourself that even though your pain may be bad right now, it won’t always be like that.

  4. Refocus your attention.

    Sometimes you just need to distract yourself from the pain. Although it might seem difficult to refocus your attention away from the pain, says Dr. Papandria, you should still try. Engage in a hobby, read, stretch or just listen to music. You can try anything that helps you refocus your attention away from the pain and onto something more enjoyable.

  5. Seek help from a behavioral health specialist.

    Engaging a behavioral health specialist as a component of a multidisciplinary treatment plan can help you start to address and work through your negative thought patterns. Behavioral health treatment will include such techniques as cognitive reframing, by which a specialist can help you identify and challenge the irrational thoughts you may have in relation to your situation. “These techniques help the patient be less negative in their thought patterns, but also realistic,” says Dr. Papandria.

Of course an effective treatment plan can also go a long way toward preventing or reducing the number of bad days like this. If you feel your current treatment plan isn’t providing you with the relief you need, call (888) 901-PAIN (7246) to discuss your treatment options.

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