Pain hurts in more ways than one. The physical sensation of pain is hard enough to deal with, but persistent pain can hurt in other ways. Pain can make it more difficult to work, enjoy recreational activities and spend time with friends and family. Pain can also make it harder to be a parent, a partner and a friend. Pain takes a toll physically, mentally and emotionally.
Most medical specialists focus on the physical aspects of pain, but the emotional and mental toll that pain takes on a person is often overlooked.
At MAPS, we realize that the stress and mental challenges caused by pain can be as difficult to cope with as the pain itself. We understand that pain can affect nearly every area of life and that pain that does not improve can easily make a person feel lost, frustrated and worried. We also recognize the particular kind of isolation that pain can bring, since many cannot truly understand what living with persistent pain is like.
MAPS believes that the best way to treat persistent pain is to focus not only on the physical causes and symptoms of pain, but its emotional, social and psychological consequences, as well. To successfully treat the pain patient, we need to attend to the whole person. Behavioral health is an essential part of our multidisciplinary care, a feature that distinguishes MAPS in the field of pain medicine, and one that is consistent with best medical practices.
The MAPS Behavioral Health team is made up of licensed mental health professionals who are trained in the fields of health psychology, clinical psychology, clinical social work, family therapy and drug and alcohol counseling. Like professionals in other mental health clinics, our Behavioral Health staff members are skilled and experienced in the treatment of depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties and other life stressors. Our providers also possess the knowledge and skills specific to the problem of pain. Our team is highly experienced in identifying and treating the unique challenges that a person with pain faces.
Some patients fear that they are being referred to a psychologist because their medical provider does not believe they have genuine pain or that their pain is something imaginary, or "all in their head.” The MAPS Behavioral Health providers recognize that persistent pain is a very real and very physical problem. In fact, we find that having patients examine the physical factors that seem to affect their pain is often the best way to begin looking at ways to cope with the pain.
Behavioral health treatment for pain includes fundamental education in what science knows about persistent pain and how the nervous system influences the experience. From this foundation, we promote ways of thinking that can alter a person’s reactions to pain and ways to cope with it more effectively. We teach our patients ways of calming the nervous system to reduce the intensity and frequency of pain. We also teach patients how to set realistic goals for themselves, challenging them to make practical changes in their work activity, recreation and social activity to help restore a sense of order in their lives.