Title: Conjoint Therapy for the Treatment of Chronic Pain: A Descriptive Pilot Study of Couples’ Needs
Objective: Chronic pain is a significant healthcare challenge for the United States. Most treatment and research has focused upon the chronic pain patient; however, partners of chronic pain patients report care-giver burden, poor relationship quality, and physical and psychological health problems. The authors propose a novel therapy for pain management that incorporates partners into pain treatment to improve relationship quality and pain management. The overall objective of this paper is to outline Conjoint Therapy for Pain Management, a behavioral treatment for chronic pain, and report descriptive pilot data from a Needs Assessment focused upon chronic pain patients and their partners to help refine the Conjoint Therapy for Pain Management treatment manual.
Methods: A Needs Assessment was conducted via focus groups with 4 couples (4 men; 4 women) for this descriptive, pilot study. Qualitative data was gathered using a semi-structured interview format. Data was recorded and analyzed using a method similar to that described in the 2015 New Hampshire Medicaid Management Focus Groups.
Results: Participants reported the positive and negative impact chronic pain had on their relationship and made suggestions for topics to include in Conjoint Therapy for Pain Management. Negative impact included difficulties with mood, decrease in social activities, sexual functioning/intimacy, and an exclusive focus on the pain. Positive aspects included improved support and patience within the relationship.
Conclusions: The Needs Assessment verified that couple functioning is impacted by chronic pain and that conjoint therapy may improve overall pain functioning. This pilot study provided information that was useful in revising the Conjoint Therapy for Pain Management treatment manual. Additions to the manual included topics on mood management, communication skills, sexuality/intimacy, problem-solving, and perspective taking.
Chronic Pain, Couple’s Therapy, Qualitative Research; Needs Assessment; Descriptive Study