It has been estimated that 70 million Americans will experience some form of pain each year and that 10% of the population will report the presence of pain at least 100 days in a year. In addition to the individual experience of pain, the social consequences to families and businesses are difficult to measure, but are significant. Traditional approaches to pain management, such as surgery and pharmacology, have not been totally successful in dealing with the physical symptoms of pain, not to mention the interpersonal symptoms. Personality does affect how people react to and deal with pain conditions. People develop different ways of interpreting information and coping with pain and stress. If the coping skills are maladaptive, the person will have more difficulty coping with the pain and associated stress. The purpose of psychological approaches to pain management, therefore, is to assess personality characteristics related to adaption to pain and then to teach people and, in some cases, their family's ways of adaptively dealing with the pain condition.
The main modality of therapy provided is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Interventions begin with an educational component that describes the role of situations, thoughts, emotions and behavior in the pain experience. Clients are then taught how to recognize and challenge the dysfunctional thoughts that might be contributing to their pain. Techniques are taught in relaxation (e.g., diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback) to assist the client in learning to deal with defensive behaviors and the other daily stress related to coping with chronic pain. Clients then learn how to implement these techniques in their daily lives. Problem solving is also undertaken in regard to decisions regarding relationship to employment, rehabilitation, and other forms of pain management and ongoing daily living issues.