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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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