Psychotherapy or talk therapy is a type of treatment where people meet with a trained professional and talk out their problems.
Psychotherapy is more than just unorganized talking, and there are several different types of psychotherapy techniques. Typically, when people think of psychotherapy they think of mental health, but research is showing more and more that you can use psychotherapy for pain management as well.
Medication vs. Psychotherapy for Pain
Traditionally, physical pain is treated with opioids. When someone is recovering from surgery, they may be given painkillers to take for the next few days or if someone suffers from chronic pain, they may be prescribed opioids.
Unfortunately, although they are given out by doctors, prescription opioids can also be abused. Some evidence suggests that between 12 and 29% of patients given prescription opioids for chronic pain will misuse these medications. Even worse, 8 to 12% will become addicted to them.1
Although they are prescription drug detox
and treatment programs, not everyone is willing to get help, and this addiction can quickly spiral out of control.
Instead of relying solely on opioids, some doctors are turning to psychotherapy for pain relief in patients. Although we typically think of chronic pain as a strictly physical phenomenon, it also has psychological components. Because of these psychological factors, effective treatment may require psychological healing as well. One study found that psychological interventions for chronic pain in older adults led to reduced pain, fewer catastrophizing beliefs about the pain, and a better ability to manage the pain on their own.2
Along with using psychotherapy for chronic pain relief, talk therapy may also be effective in reducing the use of opioid medications for other injuries. A new study exposed post-surgery patients who were at risk of dependence on opioids because of the large number of medications they were prescribed to psychotherapy with a chatbot. They found that the patients who engaged in the psychotherapy with the chatbot decreased their opioid medication usage by more than a third compared to the group who did not receive psychotherapy.3
This new data on psychotherapy for pain management may help reduce the number of people who abuse prescription opioids and could be a key factor in combating the opioid epidemic. Instead of just focusing on getting people who are already addicted into opioid addiction treatment, psychotherapy could do more for prevention.
While prescription opioids may still be necessary for treatment for some pain, psychotherapy could be an effective addition to treatment that could improve pain management. In some cases, it may even be an effective alternative. Especially for patients who have gone through an opioid detox
in the past and are now sober, prescription painkillers may not be a viable option for their recovery. Instead, psychotherapy and other alternatives to opioids could be a better choice.
At Banyan Palm Springs, we use various psychotherapy techniques in our treatment programs to help people find lasting relief from their substance abuse problems. If you or someone you care about needs help, call us today at 888-280-4763.
- NIH- Opioid Overdose Crisis
- JAMA Network- Association Between Psychological Interventions and Chronic Pain Outcomes in Older Adults A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
- Science Direct- Chatbots delivering psychotherapy help decrease opioid use after surgery