"The drug removes the symptom, but it does not help to deal with what has led to being sick. Psychotherapy removes the symptom and allows us to face the difficulties that led to the development of the symptom ".
Calm. Let's keep our heads. As a basic assumption, it can work.
Psychotherapy has led to a demand for renewal in relation to a tendentially mechanistic vision, in some way functionalistic, of the human being. However, we cannot consider psychotherapy a panacea for all ills or, at least, not in the case of persistent pain. If psychotherapy has changed the view of the human being, which therefore is not a machine, it seems to have jammed on one of its fundamental premises. Pain is considered as an expression of dissociation from emotional trauma: it seems to be an axiom. But is it really an axiom? Persistent pain challenges it, in a scientific way.
Although there are predictive psychosocial factors (emotional trauma, adverse socio-family conditions ...), these are not a sufficient condition for the development of persistent pain (not all those who have persistent pain, have experienced such conditions): pain necessarily has a demonstrable and verifiable biological basis (including nociplastic pain, for which structural and functional cortical changes are appreciable - the famous pain "which is nowhere to be seen").
If pain is a problem on an organic basis, it is not human to think of treating it with exhausting psychotherapy sessions in search of lost trauma, which may not exist (and often does not exist). Rather, it would be useful to renounce the premise pain = dissociation and stop considering people with persistent pain as sick people: they have a disease, they are not their disease, provided that persistent pain is a disease, rather than a (psycho) physical condition.
Scientifically, neurosciences question the premises of psychotherapy. A person with persistent pain is not a sick person, he is a person who lives a (psycho) physical condition, but he is not to be identified with his problem, with his difficulty, with his painful condition, he is a person who needs to be treated, but not in medical terms: he needs to be accepted, tout court. The aim of “cure medically intended” is to lead to the condition prior to that of the disease: it is often not possible. Psychotherapy, accepted all these assumptions, should be genuinely open to these new demands.
The Science of Pain, is a new science, which looks at an ancient problem with new eyes. It is not possible to think of finding innovative solutions while remaining anchored to old prejudices. Psychotherapy, which at the dawn of the twentieth century became the bearer of a revolution, has the possibility of renewing itself by playing a new and very important role, giving people with persistent pain different looks and alternative tools to deal with their own experiences in a constructive and effective way , detaching itself from the old vision of which we have spoken that, in this case, demonstrates its ineffectiveness.
In the case of persistent pain, intervention on the symptom is not useful, because we act with the idea that it is the manifestation of something, of the famous "repressed trauma", while pain is not the symptom, but the manifestation: if you enter into this perspective you can try to understand how it affects the life of those who live with it constantly and therefore it becomes possible to work at different levels on pain and its manifestations, undermining the idea that there is something to cure, to try rather to understand how it is possible to increase self-efficacy and live well with pain.
(We chose to talk about psychotherapy, not psychology, because it intervenes directly on the epistemological constructs of the personality and on the functioning of the persons themselves).
Article written with Andrea Ghirelli, trusted friend, educator, family mediator, systemic relational counselor.
A Broad Consideration of Risk Factors in Pediatric Chronic Pain: Where to Go from Here? by Hannah N. McKillop, and Gerard A. Banez2 Children (Basel). 2016 Dec; 3 (4): 38. Published online 2016 Nov 30. doi: 10.3390 / children3040038 PMC5184813
Preventing Chronic Pain following Acute Pain: Risk Factors, Preventive Strategies, and Their Efficiency by Kai McGreevy, MD, Michael M. Bottros, MD, and Srinivasa N. Raja, MD Eur J Pain Suppl. 2011 Nov 11; 5 (2): 365 – 372. PMC3217302
Bardolino Chiaretto Bentegodi, 2018