Relief from Chronic Pain: a Psychological Perspective

Everyone experiences pain at different times in response to physical pressure or damage to tissue.  If you suffer pain constantly it will likely have resulted in a decline in the quality of your life.  Apart from experiencing extreme discomfort and physical restriction, you may also be low in mood.  If your pain is as a result of an injury, you may be re-experiencing distressing aspects of that incident.

The pain experience

Within modern health science there is general agreement that the experience of chronic pain is a combination of physical, psychological and neurological factors.  This means that the experience of pain can be lessened by psychological factors, biochemistry or nerve stimulation; conversely, it can also be made worse by them.

It is believed that within the brain, the limbic system and cingulate gyrus are centrally involved in the experience of pain.  Coincidently, these same areas are implicated in post-traumatic stress.  Mark Grant, in Australia, has demonstrated that the use of Eye Movement Densensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), a treatment effective with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is also effective in treating chronic pain.

Current treatment for chronic pain

Modern Western medical treatment has moved to a multi-disciplinary approach that takes account of the overall pain experience.  Specialist treatment occurs at pain clinics attached to large hospitals where expertise can be called upon from physiotherapy, clinical psychology and anaesthetics.  However, according to the Bloomfield Report on the impact of the Northern Ireland conflict (Bloomfield, 1998), the provision of these services falls well short of the need in the community.

Treatments for pain offered currently by health professionals includes cognitive behaviour therapy and modulation of sensory inputs ; i.e. drug regimes, hypnosis, relaxation, acupuncture and electronic aids such as TENS.   Mark Grant has also shown that EMDR can help relieve chronic pain as well as be effective with PTSD.  EMDR uses a multi-modal approach focusing on thoughts, emotions, imagery, and sensory experience, all of which are ingredients of the pain experience. 

Our experience working with pain

We have worked with numerous sufferers of chronic pain and have been able to use our psychological techniques to ease discomfort for many of them.  Dr Paterson trained in hypnosis, and is an EMDR Europe Accredited Consultant.  He arranged an event where Mark Grant and Ana Valenzuela came to Northern Ireland to train therapists in the use of EMDR with chronic pain. He was also invited to facilitate at a national UK training run by Mark Grant in 2012. 


Normally we will not be your first ‘port-of-call’.  However, you can self-refer by phone or email, or be referred by your GP, or other practitioner.

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Useful link

Mark Grant’s pain website