The reality of chronic pain can be sobering and depressing. The term “empathy” in the context of medical care may sometimes be confusing and misunderstood. This often results in the conveyance of sympathy—the “I’m sorry approach”—to patients suffering from chronic pain, which does not achieve the same goals as providing a compassionate, meaningful, and empathic relationship. Empathy is often defined as the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their frame of reference: to “put oneself in someone else’s shoes.” Empathic listening may not be easy to achieve, but often may result in a much more gratifying level of communication for patients and healthcare professionals. In a time where it seems as if we are being told more now than ever about documentation, regulatory scrutiny, and taking a detailed history, it can be quite difficult to take the patient’s narrative into account, and truly reflect and understand the life and context that people with chronic pain experience. This session will focus on these topics as well as strategies to implement in clinical practice to help identify the patient’s individualized needs and integrate them into the most targeted assessment and pain treatment plan possible. (Recorded at PAINWeek 2018)
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