Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain:

A Step-by-Step Guide

by Beverly E. Thorn, PhD

“You'll just have to learn to live with it.” That's what many patients hear when there is nothing else that can be medically done to alleviate their pain. But how is a patient supposed to learn to “live with it?” Where this statement leaves off, Dr. Thorn’s book begins. Dr. Thorn's book illustrates how a therapist can help patients with pain to better cope with their suffering, and to go on to live fulfilling lives. This book is aptly named, for it truly does take the reader on a step-by-step journey through the therapeutic process.

Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain is not a comprehensive chronic pain workbook, nor was it intended to be. It does not cover such issues as medications for pain, nor does it cover breathing techniques for pain or insomnia control. Rather, it takes one critically important aspect of pain disorders, how patients come to think about their pain, and deals with the therapeutic process more thoroughly than any other book currently available.

 Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain book is a monumental work on the topic of how pain and suffering are influenced, for better or for worse, by a patient’s belief system. Beyond this, this book does an extraordinary job of taking current scientific theory and research about the nature of pain, and distilling from that concrete advice for both clinicians and their patients. This book leaves the reader with the awareness that Dr. Thorn is a master at simplifying complex ideas, and explaining them in a way that even a discouraged patient can understand and benefit from.

 Unlike some books, which are scientifically sound but which offer little that is clinically usable, Dr. Thorn’s book is eminently practical. Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain walks the reader through the types of the beliefs that influence pain, how to assess them, therapeutic strategies, and homework assignment for the patients. This book even takes the additional step of identifying aspects of these assignments that patients are likely to have difficulty with, and strategies for helping patients overcome these difficulties.

 Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain is organized with sections on theoretical matters, assessment devices with their scoring keys, and therapeutic strategies with actual homework forms. Additionally, there are also sample dialogs illustrating how to present this information, and how the patient might respond.

 Dr. Thorn’s approach is at the same time sympathetic to the plight of patients with pain, while still offering hope. While never judgmental, she still challenges patients to identify ineffective coping strategies, and to learn better ones. Most health psychologists will have a chronic pain workbook on their shelf. Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain is the next step beyond such a workbook, and will be an indispensable addition to even a senior pain professional’s library.

 Although this book is written as a guide for clinicians who treat pain, this book can also be a useful self-help guide for a motivated patient with pain.


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