Therapists at the Pain Psychology Center utilize a variety of therapy techniques in their treatment approach, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, ISTDP, hypnotherapy, guided meditation, mindfulness training, and dual brain therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy generally refers to the practice of working toward understanding and altering the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors, but it has a specific application with regard to the treatment of physical symptoms. Many pain sufferers think about their symptoms all the time; mostly from a perspective of fear: “Will this pain ever go away?” “Wait- is it better or worse than it was yesterday?” “How am I ever going to have kids if I can’t even lift them?”
This very common type of thinking can actually perpetuate symptoms, as the fear and preoccupation around the pain often serves as a reinforcing agent. Therapists at the Pain Psychology Center utilize a cognitive-behavioral approach to help patients better understand the connection between the relationship with their pain and the perpetuation of their symptoms. This relationship can be examined and altered to help break the pain cycle.
As children, we take the messages that we receive from our parents as gospel. If they criticize us, our little brains think it is because we deserve it. If we aren’t paid very much attention, we think it must be because we don’t matter very much. We internalize these messages and as we get older, and they shape the way we see ourselves and experience the world.
Psychodynamic therapy involves making the connection between our experiences growing up and the way those experiences affect the way we currently think, feel, and act. Often, exploring the events that led to the way we presently think and feel, can bring a new kind of clarity to the way we see ourselves, and can free us to experience life in a more positive and fulfilling way.
Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy
ISTDP is a unique form of therapy that gets to the heart of underlying emotions by targeting psychological defense mechanisms. Often, repressing emotions can lead to the development of physical symptoms. Identifying and disarming defense mechanisms can help access difficult-to-tolerate emotions, alleviating the need for the symptoms.
Hypnotherapy / Guided Meditation
Often, when we are in a relaxed state, our unconscious mind is more open to suggestion, and many of our normal defense mechanisms are dormant. This can allow access to feelings that are more closely guarded in a conscious state, and can result in change at a deeper level.
Relaxation exercises can also help to slow down the breathing and reduce heart rate. With practice, the body can actually be retrained to live in a calmer state. This can be a big relief to those who currently carry around tension on a daily basis.
According to John Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness means paying attention: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
Buddhists have been practicing this technique for thousands of years, but only recently has western science shown the profound ways that mindfulness practice can quite literally change the structure of the brain in a very positive way.
This technique has been shown to have a significant impact on the reduction of depression, anxiety, and pain.
Dual Brain Therapy
Frederic Schiffer, psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School has shown through studies that our two brain hemispheres act as two separate parts of ourselves. One part of our brain is more healthy, rational, and objective. When we feel good about ourselves, this part of our brain is more active. Another part of our brain is less healthy, more irrational, and more emotionally based. Time does not exist in this part of the brain. When we feel insecure, fearful, or “not good enough,” this part of our brain is more active.
Dual Brain therapy involves utilizing instruments to elicit these specific parts of the brain, and can help to resolve internal unrest at an accelerated pace. Although this approach can tend to sound a bit new-agey, many MRI studies have been conducted to measure the validity and potential positive impact of this approach.