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Perspectives

Psychological therapies for chronic pain and depression

Peter M Herriot, Anne LJ Burke

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Abstract

Psychological (nondrug) treatments have been shown to be effective for both chronic pain and depression. In contrast to drug therapy, in which the goal of treatment is usually symptom reduction, the core goal of psychological treatments is not always a reduction in pain. Psychological therapy is typically focused on improving function and quality of life despite the presence of ongoing pain.

Key Points

  • Psychological therapies have much to offer individuals who have chronic pain and comorbid depression, and they are a core component of the multidisciplinary management of chronic pain.
  • Patients should be encouraged to look beyond pharmaceutical treatments for chronic pain and depression.
  • Psychological therapy is frequently focused on improving function and quality of life despite the presence of persistent pain.
  • Specific treatment components may include relaxation training, graded behavioural activation, changing how patients interact with their thoughts and mindfulness.

    Picture credit: © Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library.

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