Chronic pain patients must pay close attention to the mind-body connection. Negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and depression can encourage increased sensation of pain both due to biochemical factors and the impact that these emotions have on our activity levels. Seeking out therapy to address the emotional and psychological factors associated with chronic pain is a good idea.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, the type of therapy that is perhaps most useful for chronic pain, requires serious personal work on the part of the patient. You’re not just walking into a therapist’s office and waiting for him or her to “fix” you with a diagnosis or medication. Generally, a significant amount of work must be done by the individual to assess beliefs about and attitudes toward pain, how these affect behavior and how to replace maladjusted attitudes and beliefs with more proactive ones. While effort is required, the therapy is generally short-course and the impacts have the potential to last a lifetime.
Purchasing a workbook may be a good idea for patients who are in therapy, those who are awaiting therapy and those who can’t access therapy. There are a variety of books out there that chronic pain patients can use for support; patients should assess the unique characteristics, aims and requirements of different books before committing to one. The following is a summary of patient and psychologist reviews of two popular workbooks for patients with chronic pain.
1. Managing Chronic Pain: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach Workbook (Treatments That Work)
Currently with 9 customer reviews, this book, written by Licensed Clinical Psychologist John Otis, has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon.com. The book teaches basic cognitive behavioral therapy skills, such as identifying negative automatic thought patterns, restructuring your thought patterns and developing healthy habits including stress management techniques and sleep hygiene. Customers report that the book is easy to read, brief and to-the-point. However, many customers and psychologists note that it is intended to be used in conjunction with therapy (Otis also wrote a companion Therapist Guide book). One reviewer suggests that the book may still be beneficial in a strictly self-help situation.
On her blog, “HealthSkills,” found at http://healthskills.wordpress.com, Bronwyn Thompson (MSc Psychology and Registered Occupational Therapist) gives her professional assessment of the book along with the Therapist Guide companion reading. She echoes insights from Amazon reviewers, saying that the brevity of the book makes it accessible to patients. But she also notes that the book lacks long-term goal-setting and, though brief, it requires high volumes of work from patients which means that only the most committed and motivated could be expected to follow through without the guidance of a therapist.
Easy to read
Under $30 (companion book is a little more)
Provides helpful worksheets and assignments
Might not be helpful if pursued independently
Requires a lot of personal motivation
No long-term goal-setting
2. The Chronic Pain Care Workbook: A Self-Treatment Approach to Pain Relief Using the Behavioral Assessment of Pain Questionnaire (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)
This workbook, written by Clinical Psychologist Michael J. Lewandowski, offers readers access to an evidence-based questionnaire used around the world to assess individual patient problem areas, including fatigue, negative thoughts and ideas, social problems and fear avoidance behaviors. Patients can use the assessment tool to create an individualized plan using the tools and exercises provided in the book for addressing specific problem areas.
This book currently has 4.5 stars on Amazon.com. Some patients using the book independently report that it is helpful, and Bronwyn Thompson’s review involves less emphasis on the need for working with a therapist than her review of the above book does. However, she notes that the length of the book and the greater detail it goes into might make following along and committing harder for some patients pursuing it independently. Patients report that the frequent worksheets and assessments at various stages of the book are helpful for tracking progress and making adjustments when a certain course is not particularly helpful.
Friendly to independent use by patients
Uses evidence-based assessment, allowing for individualization
Over 200 pages, perhaps too in-depth for some readers
Requires a lot of commitment, may be too much for some to do independently
A chronic pain workbook with cognitive behavioral skill-building may be helpful to people with chronic pain. These books serve as a very affordable resource, although they do require time, energy and motivation. According to reviews from patients and mental health practitioners, the work patients put into these books generally has big payoffs in terms of improved pain management skills and quality of life. Consider incorporating a workbook into your treatment plan.