The Power of Groups: Driving Better Outcomes in Pain Management

Author: Ilene R. Robeck

Ilene Robeck, MD

One of the challenges with pain is we just don’t have enough clinicians who are trained, relative to the number of patients needing care. So initially we thought of the group as a way that we can make better use of our scarce resources. But what we found is that the groups took on a life of their own in a very positive way.  So now we have the ability to do a pain school where we are able to educate patients and their family members about all aspects of pain in a group setting, and patients can learn from one another.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be so important in terms of neuroplasticity and restructuring how patients face the challenges in their day. But the number of people trained in that are small relative to the need, so we’ve started to do group cognitive behavioral therapy classes. Opioid safety is very important, and we run an opioid safety class in which we not only educate patients but family members, and we find that patients in this setting start to embark on a more active treatment of their pain. They’re more participatory in physical therapy, they are more active in terms of getting back to their lives. What I’ve seen as a clinician is that when you have somebody who’s had chronic pain and they start to have small successes, the ability to share those successes becomes therapeutic in and of itself. There’s an excitement to sharing that, that’s really, I think, part of the human spirit.

So the groups started as a matter of necessity but have really turned into something that frequently works better than one-on-one discussions.

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