On this week’s episode, I share the first part of my talk with Dr. Bronnie Thompson from one year ago on chronic pain management which will change the way you practice. Dr. Thompson has worked in the field of chronic pain management, helping people develop ‘self management’ skills for 20 years and has a passion to help people experiencing chronic health problems achieve their potential.

In this episode, we discuss:

-How to learn to live well despite chronic pain and her research on the 3 phases to reoccupy your self-concept

-How to incorporate values based pain management into your practice

-The value of motivational interviewing, the specifics of implementation, and why it’s not always about pain

-Why patience is key to a person-centered practice

-And so much more!


Healthcare providers should address the nature of chronic pain and the goal of treatment should be to educate patients on how to understand and manage their pain. Dr. Thompson found that for patients with chronic pain, “Hearing that this pain is likely to remain was a really important turning point for all the participants. So they stopped that search for the cure.”


Dr. Thompson promotes a psychosocial approach to learning to live well with chronic pain and making new sense of your self-concept.   Dr. Thompson states, “When pain comes on, life becomes incoherent—it doesn’t make sense anymore. Your self-concept, the person that you think you are, suddenly goes. You can’t rely on yourself to do the things that you used to be able to do and the expectations you have of yourself disappear. For a long time, people are sustained on this search to go back to the person they used to be. But 5, 10, 15 years later, they are never going to be that person. It’s about saying, ‘Who can I be now?’ The process of learning to live well is about recognizing, ‘I do need to let go of that desire to go back to my old self and look to build this new person.’”


One of the key aspects of learning to live with chronic pain is to find a sense of community and begin building new meaning in your life. Dr. Thompson states, “Carrying that invisible sort of separation, ‘I’m not who I used to be, I feel like I’m not who I used to be and yet nobody can see that’ is so isolating. It’s unbelievably isolating. To be able to say, ‘I can connect,’—what you do connects you with other people, the way you dress, the way you happen to tidy your house or not, the way that you drive—you’re going to look at other people and you’re going to say I’m like them or I’m different from them and that’s how we find our way.”


For more about Dr. Thompson:

celebratingminiI trained as an occupational therapist, and graduated in 1984. Since then I’ve continued study at postgraduate level and my papers have included business skills, ergonomics, mental health therapies, and psychology. I completed by Masters in Psychology in 1999, and started my PhD in 2007. I’ve now finished my thesis (yay!) and can call myself Dr, or as my kids call me, Dr Mum.

I have a passion to help people experiencing chronic health problems achieve their potential. I have worked in the field of chronic pain management, helping people develop ‘self management’ skills for 20 years. Many of the skills are directly applicable to people with other health conditions.

My way of working: collaboratively – all people have limitations and vulnerabilities – as well as strengths and potential. I use a cognitive and behavioural approach – therapy isn’t helpful unless there are visible changes! I don’t use this approach exclusively, because it is necessary to ‘borrow’ at times from other approaches, but I encourage ongoing evaluation of everything that is put forward as ‘therapy’. I’m especially drawn to what’s known as third wave CBT, things like mindfulness, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and occupation.

I’m also an educator. I take this role very seriously – it is as important to health care as research and clinical skill. I offer an active knowledge of the latest research, integrated with current clinical practice, and communicated to clinicians working directly with people experiencing chronic ill health. I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Orthopaedic surgery & Musculoskeletal Medicine at the University of Otago Christchurch Health Sciences.

I also offer courses, training and supervision for therapists working with people experiencing chronic ill health.


Check out her blog HealthSkills for more great resources and follow Dr. Thompson on twitterfacebook, and LinkedIn.


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Have a great week and stay Healthy Wealthy and Smart!


Xo Karen


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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.