Treatment Interventions

What is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy?

Written by Carron Manning, Co-Founder of Chiron and Chartered Physiotherapist MSc BSc MCSP

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a another widely used therapeutic approach that has been shown to be effective in helping individuals manage chronic pain. CBT for chronic pain focuses on addressing the cognitive and behavioural aspects of the pain experience.

It’s a type of talking therapy that help focus on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and actions. It also joins two types of therapy, cognitive and behavioural, bringing together how you think and what you do.

How does CBT affect those with chronic pain?

There are ways in which cognitive-behavioral therapy can be beneficial for individuals with chronic pain, so let’s take a look at a few. 

Maladaptive thoughts

CBT helps individuals identify and challenge maladaptive thoughts related to pain. These may include catastrophic thinking, negative self-talk, or beliefs about the uncontrollability of pain. By changing these thought patterns, individuals can alter their emotional and behavioral responses to pain.

Promoting coping skills

It also equips individuals with a range of coping skills to manage pain more effectively. This includes relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and stress management strategies. Learning and practicing these skills can enhance an individual's ability to cope with pain-related challenges.

Behavioural activation

CBT encourages individuals to engage in activities that bring a sense of pleasure or accomplishment, even in the presence of pain. Behavioral activation helps counteract the tendency to withdraw from activities due to fear of pain and promotes a more active and fulfilling lifestyle.

Pain self-monitoring

This next way CBT can be helpful is one of the most prominent aspects of Chiron. Individuals undergoing CBT for chronic pain often learn to keep track of their pain experiences and associated thoughts and emotions. Pain self-monitoring helps individuals identify patterns, triggers, and factors influencing their pain, leading to a better understanding of the pain experience.

Goal setting

CBT involves setting realistic and achievable goals related to pain management and overall well-being. Goal setting helps individuals focus on positive outcomes and gradually build a sense of mastery over their pain.

Stress reduction

Chronic pain is often exacerbated by stress. CBT teaches stress reduction techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation and controlled breathing, to help individuals manage the physical and emotional impact of stress on pain.

woman in black shirt and gray pants sitting on brown wooden bench

Sleep improvement

CBT for chronic pain may address sleep disturbances commonly associated with pain conditions. Sleep hygiene principles and cognitive strategies are employed to improve sleep quality and break the cycle of pain-related insomnia.

Enhancing problem-solving skills

Individuals with chronic pain often face various challenges in daily life. CBT helps enhance problem-solving skills, enabling individuals to approach challenges more effectively and find adaptive solutions. 

Addressing emotional impact

Chronic pain can have a significant emotional toll. CBT helps individuals recognize and manage emotions associated with pain, such as anxiety, depression, and frustration, fostering a more adaptive emotional response.

Long-term maintenance

CBT is often focused on providing individuals with tools and skills that they can continue to use independently in the long term. This empowers individuals to apply what they have learned in therapy to manage ongoing challenges related to chronic pain.

CBT can be super helpful for many people, however, if you want to take a look around, why not try ACT? Acceptance and commitment therapy is another great tool and strategy to have in your repertoire when looking for some guidance.