Millions of people cope with chronic painful conditions or functional syndromes such as fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome. Recent research has shown that a significant proportion of these individuals do not have clear evidence of structural abnormalities that explain their symptoms. Patients become frustrated when diagnostic tests are normal and they fall into a blind spot in the healthcare system. Biomedical treatments such as medications, injections or surgery are the usual recommendation though these are typically ineffective when psychological processes are responsible for symptoms. Though mental health practitioners often help chronic pain patients cope with the stress of their symptoms, they can do much more. Psychotherapists actually can help treat the pain directly.
Because psychotherapists are not trained to diagnose a psychophysiologic disorder (PPD), it is important to recognize which symptoms might be PPD and refer to a physician who can confirm this diagnosis. Physicians who are familiar with this condition can be found in the Practitioner Directory. If the client's physician is unfamiliar with PPD they can still evaluate diagnostically for other causes.
There are certain signs that can help determine whether the PPD diagnosis fits. These clues to PPD include symptoms that increase during times of emotional turmoil and symptoms in more than one area (e.g. headaches, fibromyalgia and back pain). Once a physician has confirmed that it would be safe to pursue a conservative, mind-body approach for your client’s symptoms, there are many ways to educate yourself and receive training on treatment protocol.