Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Pain

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is designed to correct maladaptive patterns of thinking and beliefs that can underlie coping and behavior.  This type of unproductive thinking can decrease a person’s ability to cope with pain.  We can improve how me feel, mentally and physically, by changing our thoughts.   You need to dispute any negative thinking and replace it with the positive. You can even stop negative thoughts by saying:  “Stop” inside your head.  You can dispute them by asking these questions.

  1. Is there support for this belief?
  2. Why is this a faulty belief?
  3. What evidence supports this negative belief?

Then, you replace the negative thought with a positive one.  An example of this is:  “I am relaxed.  I can manage.  I can cope with this pain, I have before.”  This type of positive statement can help.  Positive affirmations use the same kind of statement but you repeat the phrases over and over to yourself.  Examples are:  “I can handle this”, “I’m doing just fine.”, “This too will pass.”  This programs your unconscious with positivity.  Your positive affirmations need to be short, present tense (I am relaxed.) and positive. It is perfectly alright if your affirmations are not true at the moment.

A person’s thinking around their pain can include the feeling that it is a warning, a trial and/or a punishment.  Or, it is possible to find a positive meaning in pain, such as considering it a challenge that can make them stronger.  A common spiritual concept is that we can grow spiritually.through the challenges we meet in life

Positive thinking can impart a sense of control and decrease catastrophysing.   Feeling in control is called self-efficacy, the belief that your efforts will prove effective.  These positive expectations lead to increased effort and better results.  Incidentally, the feeling  of being in control can decrease depression as well as pain.

Best wishes in your journey to take control of your pain.

Patricia Kay Youngson

Article written by Patricia Kay Youngson RN, Counselor working with pain isues. E-mail:, website

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