“Where to Go from Here for Psychological Treatments for Pain?”

IASP 2018 World Congress on Pain PRF Correspondents Blog Response by Dr. Alisa Johnson.

“I have a body!” announced Chris Eccleston, during his spirited plenary talk on Thursday afternoon. As an experimental psychologist, it was a welcome reminder that in order to further psychological efforts for chronic pain management, psychologists must attend to the reality that the mind and body are connected. A major problem plaguing psychological progress in the treatment of pain is that many of us (i.e., psychologists) have forgotten that we have a functional body with numerous senses that all serve a purpose. Eccleston implored the packed room to “bring the body back into psychology, and bring psychology back into medicine.” Only then will progress be made.

While efforts to treat chronic pain using psychological techniques have received much attention in the past few decades, strong evidence–the kind needed to convince third-party payers–is lacking. In order to develop effective and meaningful psychological interventions for pain, there must be recognition of the senses (not just the basic 5), and consideration for their narrowly defined functions. In addition, Eccleston proposed that pain be considered as a needs state, much like hunger, and that pain can be thought of as the body bringing awareness to an unmet need.

New avenues for psychological treatments for pain were presented, including “dissociative defence,” an approach that harnesses our innate power to dissociate from the pain experience. Eccleston pointed out exciting new avenues of research into psychological approaches that tap into the power of dissociation, such as hypnosis. Wrapping up his lively talk, Eccleston implored the audience to embrace the experimental psychologists in their own departments as comrades in the fight against pain and to never forget we are human with minds AND bodies.



Alisa Johnson, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Florida, Gainesville, US.




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