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Airing Pain 69: People not Patients

Sharing decisions and why pain management needs psychology

This edition has been funded by a grant from the Scottish Government.

Can a doctor ever be too sympathetic? Health psychologist Professor Tamar Pincus explains why this might be the case – patients with long term conditions can feel like they are being ‘looked after’ rather than taking responsibility for their own health. Pincus also clears up some myths about the role of psychology in chronic pain and makes the case for acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as a key part of the pain management toolkit.

Acceptance can be difficult when people in pain are under pressure from those around them to be ‘the person they were before the pain’. GP Frances Cole’s rehabilitation service puts the people – not ‘patients’ ­– she sees in control of guiding their own treatment with the aim of being the best they can be with the pain. She asks them to focus on what matters most to them and helps them connect to ‘a new world’ where they can learn skills and knowledge from other people who’ve faced the same challenges.

Issues covered in this programme include: Educating healthcare professionals, psychology, GP, pain beliefs, the biopsychosocial model, managing consultations, ACT: acceptance and commitment therapy, physiotherapy and exercise.


  • Tamar Pincus, Professor in Health Psychology, Department of psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL)
  • Frances Cole, GP and Pain Rehabilitation Specialist.
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