My role in the team: Pain psychologist

With Ms Su-Yin Yang  |  16 Jul 2014  |  Print

My role in the team: Pain psychologist

Ms Su-Yin Yang is a senior psychologist at the Pain Management Clinic of Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore As a pain psychologist, I help patients to make sense of their pain and teach them how to manage their pain in more effective ways, allowing them to live as normal a life as possible. I help patients to identify factors that perpetuate their pain experience and teach them how to change maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns to manage their pain more effectively. At the pain management clinic in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, we emphasize multidisciplinary teamwork. I work with like-minded colleagues to provide holistic care to the patient. An agreed care plan is set up and patients are usually reviewed within 1 to 3 months for updates to the plan. I look for treatment barriers that could influence a patient’s adherence to treatment, paying attention to what are called ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ flags. I am able to reinforce focus on patients’ goals and a positive process of behavioral change. Patients are assured that treatment is specific to their physical pain condition and that seeing a pain psychologist does not mean that their pain is imagined. Addressing and managing the effects of anger and frustration as a result of failed treatment is also an important role of the pain psychologist. I usually use what are called ‘motivational interviewing techniques’, specifically the technique of ‘rolling with resistance’ during the initial treatment phase. I find this technique very useful as the therapist works in a collaborative and not a coercive fashion with the patient. Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) strategies, acknowledged as the third wave of CBT, are the main psychological models I adhere to in treatment. I believe most people do not understand that it is practically impossible to separate physical and non-physical aspects of pain. If one does not look at the whole problem, it can be very difficult to manage it successfully.

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