Treating pain in primary care: Optimizing an integrated psychological intervention based on perspectives of psychologists, primary care providers, and patients

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Families, systems & health


INTRODUCTION: Although behavioral health treatment can improve distress and pain functioning for patients with chronic pain, few who are referred by their primary care physician will see a behavioral health specialist. Given the benefits of integrating behavioral health into primary care, this may be an avenue for delivering a psychological intervention for chronic pain. The purpose of this study was to optimize a psychological intervention for patients with chronic pain to be delivered in primary care, utilizing the perspectives of providers and patients.

METHOD: Psychologists (n = 9), primary care providers (n = 9), and patients with chronic pain (n = 9) participated in separate focus groups. Participants reviewed the proposed 4-session intervention, provided feedback prompted by a set of open-ended questions, and completed a survey.

RESULTS: Statements from focus groups were transcribed and coded into 2 thematic categories: (a) content of the intervention and (b) logistics and design. Participants believed that offering a brief, behavioral intervention for chronic pain in a primary care clinic was feasible and useful. All providers (100%) agreed or strongly agreed that they would refer a patient to this intervention, and 100% of patients agreed or strongly agreed that they would participate.

DISCUSSION: Feedback solicited from the focus groups led to alterations to the treatment manual, such as adding a fifth session, using different psychological strategies, and logistical changes in delivery (i.e., meeting biweekly and intervisit contacts). The modified version of this intervention will be evaluated with a pilot randomized controlled clinical trial. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

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