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How to Get the Most from CBT

To maximize the pain control power of CBT, do the following:

  • Believe it will work. Some people who try CBT proceed with caution because they worry that health care providers won’t believe the pain is real. “If you don’t feel listened to, you won’t engage in the process and do well,” Hullett says. Realize that your physician knows your pain is real and is referring you for CBT because it can help.
  • Actively participate. Like many things, you will get out of CBT what you put into it. “The more work you put toward completing your assignments and learning, the better your pain relief outcome will be,” he adds.
  • Complete the program. One issue with CBT is that people don’t always complete all aspects of the recommended program. “For the therapy to work for pain management, you have to attend sessions, do your homework, and follow the activity plan -- this is critically important,” Hullett says.
  • Practice new skills. “Practice the new ways you learn to think and act in response to pain often, even when you’re not in pain,” Muller says. This may also entail keeping a log of your pain and the skills you use to fight it. Practice will help you draw on your CBT skills automatically when you need them.
  • Keep an open mind. If you have a persistent need to be right or you can’t stand looking at things a different way, CBT won’t work for pain control. “You need to be able to see that there is an alternative way of looking at things that may be a better way and will help you,” Hullett says.

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