Pain catastrophizing as a treatment process variable in cognitive behavioral therapy for adults with chronic pain

Wesley P Gilliam, Matthew E Schumann, Julie L Cunningham, Michele M Evans, Connie A Luedtke, Eleshia J Morrison, Jeannie A Sperry, Kevin E Vowles

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BACKGROUND: Interdisciplinary cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for chronic pain is effective at improving function, mood, and pain interference among individuals with disabling chronic pain. Traditionally, CBT assumes cognitive change is an active therapeutic ingredient in the determination of treatment outcome. Pain catastrophizing, a cognitive response style that views the experience of pain as uncontrollable, permanent, and destructive, has been identified as an important maladaptive cognition which contributes to difficulties with the management of chronic pain. Consequently, pain catastrophizing is commonly targeted in CBT for chronic pain.

OBJECTIVES: To examine change trajectories in pain catastrophizing during treatment and assess the relevance of these trajectories to outcomes at post-treatment.

METHODS: Participants included individuals with chronic pain (N = 463) who completed a three-week program of interdisciplinary CBT. Pain catastrophizing was assessed weekly over the three weeks of treatment and latent growth curve modeling was used to identify trajectories of change.

RESULTS: Findings indicated the presence of two classes of linear change, one with a significant negative slope in pain catastrophizing (i.e., improved class) and the other with a non-significant slope (i.e., unchanged class). Next, latent growth mixture modeling examined treatment outcome in relation to class membership. These results indicated that individuals in the "improved" PCS class had significantly greater improvement in pain interference and mood, as well as physical and mental quality of life compared to the "unchanged" class.

CONCLUSIONS: Implications for our findings, in relation to the CBT model, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-347
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number2
Early online date08 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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