Therapeutic writing and chronic pain: experiences of therapeutic writing in a cognitive behavioural programme for people with chronic pain

Authors

  • Bodil Furnes,

    1. Authors:Bodil Furnes, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stavanger; Elin Dysvik, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway
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  • Elin Dysvik

    1. Authors:Bodil Furnes, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stavanger; Elin Dysvik, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway
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Bodil Furnes, Associate Professor, Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stavanger, N-4036 Stavanger, Norway. Telephone: +47518341000.
E-mail:bodil.furnes@uis.no

Abstract

Aims and objectives.  To examine the experiences of therapeutic writing from the perspectives of patients attending a chronic pain management programme.

Background.  Pain is a multifaceted experience. Increased awareness, understanding and gaining new insights are essential aspects of dealing with chronic pain. It is crucial to find powerful ways to cope with chronic pain. Several studies point to writing as a tool for managing such demanding life experiences. Therapeutic writing in a cognitive behavioural approach may be used to facilitate the rehabilitation process.

Design.  A qualitative study with a descriptive and explorative design including a phenomenological perspective was used.

Methods.  A consecutive sample of 34 outpatients with chronic pain was recruited to an eight-week group-based pain management programme. A therapeutic writing tool was developed and included as part of the homework tasks. Guidelines were used to initiate and guide the therapeutic writing activity. Written reports were collected after completion.

Results.  Three thematic findings emerged from the analysis: ‘increased understanding of chronic pain as a multifaceted experience’, ‘new insights into managing the chronic pain situation’ and ‘different performances lead to different experiences with therapeutic writing’.

Conclusions.  Increased awareness, understanding and new insights are essential to dealing with chronic pain. People with chronic pain need tools and skills for optimal adaptation. Our findings suggest therapeutic writing may strengthen cognitive behavioural therapy by facilitating cognitive restructuring processes.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Therapeutic writing may be used as a tool to express individual experiences and to improve adaptation to chronic pain.

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