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    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to Treat Chronic Pain


    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy, helps you to recognize the effects of your thoughts and emotions on your behavior.

    This approach can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain disorders that affect approximately 50.2 million adults in America.

    How it works

    CBT is a structured therapy that allows a mental health professional to lead sessions and ask targeted questions. It is designed to help you identify and change negative thoughts and behavior, while also teaching you how to create healthier habits.

    RELATED: 8 Great Pain Reliefs You Don’t Need

    CBT is a treatment for chronic pain. It works by changing the way you think and the way that you react to the physical symptoms.

    By shifting your perspective and focus, you can learn new ways to manage your discomfort.

    The following steps are typical of CBT:


    • Recognize the problem.
    • Be aware of what your thoughts and emotions are in relation to the problem that you are facing.
    • Recognize negative and harmful thought patterns that could be contributing to your difficulties.
    • Replace negative thoughts, beliefs and behaviors with helpful or positive habits.


    CBT focuses more on the present situation of the patient than on past problems.

    Chronic pain symptom relief

    Research has shown that CBT can reduce chronic pain symptoms, as well as specific types of pain like:

    • Joint pain
    • Pain in the back
    • Headache

    One review looked at data from more than 59 studies, which included over 5,000 participants suffering from various types of chronic pain. Researchers found that CBT had a modest but positive effect on chronic pain and disability.

    The Annals of Internal Medicine published a study that included 850 people who had been receiving long-term opioid treatment for chronic back pain. The results showed that those who had CBT and yoga for three months experienced a lower level of pain intensity one year later. However, they did not reduce their opioid medication usage. Patients also reported better sleep and a greater ability to complete daily tasks.

    Improved Musculoskeletal Pain Intensity and Chronic Low Back Pain

    Previous research has shown that online CBT programs are beneficial for people with chronic low back pain.

    A meta-analysis of studies published by the journal Pain looked at psychological treatments for Fibromyalgia. It is a condition characterized with widespread musculoskeletal pain symptoms and was found to be more effective than other psychological methods in decreasing pain intensity.

    Additional Benefits

    According to the American Psychological Association (APA), CBT can be used to treat a variety of other disorders.

    Research published in Cognitive Therapy and Research looked at 106 meta-analyses which evaluated CBT’s effectiveness for treating a variety of medical conditions.

    According to the study’s authors, CBT improves quality of life for people with a variety of mental and physical conditions. We don’t know how effective it is for certain conditions. However, we do know that it has small to moderate benefits.

    CBT can also be helpful for chronic pain.

    • Anxiety disorders
    • Depression and Dysthymia
    • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Stress
    • Aggression or anger issues
    • Criminal behavior
    • Eating disorders
    • Somatoform disorders are psychiatric conditions that can cause physical symptoms.
    • Substance abuse disorders and other addictions
    • Schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders
    • Personality disorders
    • Medical conditions can cause distress
    • Insomnia
    • Fatigue
    • Stress related to hormonal changes or pregnancy-related distress in women

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has many benefits for general health and wellness.

    CBT isn’t just for those with chronic pain. Anyone can benefit from the therapy to lower stress levels and live a happier life.

    Numerous studies have shown that CBT is more effective at reducing workplace stress than other interventions.

    CBT interventions have been shown to improve self-esteem in some individuals, according to research.

    According to the American Psychological Association, CBT basically helps people learn how to be their own therapists.

    You will hopefully learn coping skills to help you manage your thoughts and behavior in a positive manner.

    These strategies are useful in many situations, regardless of whether you’re going through pain. People may use CBT to deal with issues such as grief, relationship problems, and work-related problems.

    How to Use CBT

    Finding a therapist is the first step. This type of treatment can be practiced by many mental health professionals.

    The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies(ABCT) states that the following professionals can offer CBT:

    • Psychologists
    • Psychiatrists
    • Social workers in clinical settings
    • Counselors who are professionals

    You might be referred to a therapist by your primary care physician. Or you could ask friends and family for recommendations.

    The ABCT has a directory that can help you find local clinicians. Similar features are offered by the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies to help you locate a therapist.

    It is important that you choose a clinician that makes you feel at ease. Consultation should be your first session. This will give you an idea of what to expect.

    It might be worthwhile to inquire about whether your state licenses the therapist you are considering. You can also inquire about CBT certification for some professionals.

    Ask about the success rate of CBT for chronic pain if you would prefer to see someone who is a specialist in this field.

    What to Expect

    CBT sessions can be held in person or remotely via videoconferencing.

    Your therapist and you will begin by getting to know your medical history.

    Your sessions will be tailored by your clinician to meet your needs.

    Your therapist will encourage and facilitate conversations about your feelings and thoughts by asking you interactive questions.

    We’ll also talk about different strategies that can help you change your negative thoughts and behaviors.

    Your therapist may help you to identify negative beliefs about your pain. You can then learn how to talk to others and yourself about your pain. You might also learn pain management techniques that you can use in your everyday life.

    You might be assigned homework by your therapist. You might be asked to read helpful material, do relaxation exercises, or keep a journal.

    Although CBT can be used as a short-term treatment, the results are not guaranteed.

    Therapy sessions usually last between 5 and 20 meetings. You’ll need to keep practicing the techniques that you have learned to ensure a long-lasting outcome.

    Are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Fees Expensive? Is insurance required to cover it?

    Cost of CBT depends on where you are receiving the therapy and your insurance coverage.

    Call your insurance company to see if you have coverage for therapy. Each policy is unique, but most allow for a specific number of sessions per year.

    According to the Anxiety & depression Association of America (ADAA), a session of CBT can cost $100 per hour or more.

    Federally funded health centers can offer a discount rate for those who don’t have insurance or cannot afford CBT. This is based on your income. Some colleges and universities also offer therapy sessions at a low cost for graduate students.

    Take into account

    CBT is generally safe. However, it can sometimes be difficult to deal with emotionally. CBT can cause you to have uncomfortable thoughts and trigger unpleasant emotions.

    These challenges can be overcome by a skilled therapist who will help you deal with your fears and negative thoughts.

    CBT therapy is not for everyone. It is important to commit to changing your thinking process over the long-term. CBT does not address past problems in a person’s life.

    Trauma-focused CBT may be beneficial for some patients who have suffered from trauma.

    or other trauma- and PTSD-focused therapies.

    Negative reactions can also be caused by CBT. One study looked at 100 CBT therapists. It found that 43 out of 98 CBT patients had side effects. Negative well-being, distress, worsening symptoms and strains in family relationships were the most common side effects.




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