You have seen doctor after doctor after doctor. Done countless tests and imaging. Been poked and prodded more times than a pin-cushion. And still. No answers. Maybe some temporary relief. And some temporary hope. But nothing that lasts long enough to actually get you back to living your old life.
You are so tired of hearing ‘Maybe you just need to reduce your stress’, or worse, ‘It’s all in your head’. You would love to flush all your medication down the toilet, but don’t know how you could make it through a day without it.
You just want to sit and enjoy a movie, or play with your kids, or take a trip, and not be in pain the entire time. You just can’t imagine how that would even be possible.
I'm so sorry for your struggles.
And so happy you found this website.
Even though it seems hard at first to wrap our heads around, most forms of chronic pain actually don't stem from something damaged or broken in our body.
Chronic pain that isn't due to an ongoing fracture, infection, or tumour is what is called neuroplastic pain, or learned neural pathway pain. It's also called TMS, psychophysiologic disorder, or mind-body syndrome; it can get a little confusing, but they all mean the same thing. I prefer the term learned neural pathway pain, because it highlights the great news - pain pathways can be learned, and thus can also be unlearned. (Credit to Dr. Howard Schubiner, who wrote a book all about how to Unlearn Your Pain.)
Unlearning our pain is not always easy. (Sorry if you have heard success stories of people curing decades of chronic pain simply by reading a book - that is the exception!) But unlearning our pain is possible. Especially when we understand that what actually keeps pain going is how our brain responds to threat. Or simply put, fear. This is the foundation for the treatment framework of Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT; credit to Alan Gordon and Alon Ziv, who wrote a book all about The Way Out using PRT).
When we take away the fear, we can take away the pain.
And along the way we can maybe even learn to listen to our bodies in a whole new way. Because ultimately, our brain and nervous system are just trying to keep us safe and protected. (Yep, even when it seems like our body is against us!)
If any of this resonates for you, whether this is the first time you are hearing these ideas, or you have already read all the books and listened to all the podcasts on chronic pain, but are feeling a little stuck, please consider reaching out! I would be happy to speak with you about whether I think a PRT approach could be of help to you.
PRT isn't a miracle cure - like any therapy, there is work to do - but it has been helpful for many people with multiple kinds of chronic symptoms, including chronic back pain, neck pain, arm and leg pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. If you are someone who likes to have evidence - and I hope you do - here are some recent publications that go into the science behind this approach: (1) Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT) for chronic back pain, (2) Psychophysiologic Symptom Relief Therapy (PSRT) for chronic back pain.
During our first conversation over the phone, I will ask you for a little bit of information about the kind of pain or other chronic symptoms you have been experiencing in order to help me get a sense of whether PRT can be helpful for your situation. If it seems like PRT would be a good fit, we will schedule an initial intake appointment to be held by video. At that virtual meeting I will gather more information about your history and the circumstances under which your pain began, any diagnoses you have received, the kinds of testing and treatments you have tried, what makes your pain better or worse, and importantly find out more about how you understand the causes of your pain, and clarify your goals for treatment.
If we agree that proceeding with treatment makes sense, we will always start with lots of education about pain. I want us both to be on the same page and there are lots of fascinating and important things to know about how pain works, especially how acute pain and chronic pain differ.
Then, we will move into learning new ways to relate to your pain (both physically and emotionally) and body in general. This is where the practice of somatic tracking is really valuable. We might also engage in some graded exposure to feared sensations. We will very likely talk about the importance of learning to listen to your body in a new way and giving yourself permission to respond to your own needs. To best help you return to your life before chronic pain, as appropriate, I will also consider integrating other approaches such as mindfulness, Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET), and Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), all related approaches in which I am also trained.
Ultimately our goal is to help you turn down the fear volume in your nervous system.
Finally, the important fine print: Appointments for individual therapy are available during weekday business hours and are $225 per hour. Receipts are provided for health insurance plan reimbursement. Note that many insurance plans require a referral from a physician in order to receive coverage for psychological services, so please double check what your plan requires.
And in case you are wondering, or perhaps are understandably confused - I currently live in Manitoba but am registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and provide services virtually to residents of Ontario only.
Please feel welcome to reach out. I'd love to see if we would be a good fit.