Cognitive behavioural therapy in pain and psychological disorders: Towards a hybrid future

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Abstract

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of evidence-based talking therapy that emphasises the importance of behaviour and conscious thoughts in shaping our emotional experiences. As pain becomes increasingly accepted as not only a sensory but also an emotional experience, success in using CBT to treat emotional disorders has resulted in the incorporation of cognitive-behavioural principles into the management of chronic pain. Outcomes of CBT-informed interdisciplinary pain management programmes are modest at best, despite rapid methodological improvements in trial design and implementation. Whilst the field searches for new treatment directions, a hybrid CBT approach that seeks to simultaneously tackle pain and its comorbidities shows promise in optimising treatment effectiveness and flexibility. This article provides a brief description of the core characteristics of CBT and the transformation this therapeutic model has brought to our understanding and management of chronic pain. Current evidence on efficacy of CBT for chronic pain is then reviewed, followed by a critical consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of the new hybrid treatment approach that conceptualises and treats chronic pain in connection with its comorbidities. Recent progress made in the area of pain and insomnia is highlighted as an example to project therapeutic innovations in the near future.

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