Adjunctive cognitive behavioural treatment for chronic pain couples improves marital satisfaction but not pain management outcomes

Publication Type:
Journal Article
European Journal of Pain (United Kingdom), 2016, 20 (10), pp. 1667 - 1677
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© 2016 European Pain Federation - EFIC® Background: Data have consistently shown that patient coping with chronic pain can be affected by various factors associated with the primary relationship, and hence efforts to include the patient's partner in the treatment process have merit. This study evaluated the benefit of adding an adjunctive, couples-based, cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT) for chronic pain to a standard cognitive behavioural pain management programme. Methods: Forty-five couples were randomly assigned to either an adjunctive couples intervention (n = 19) or the pain programme only (n = 26). All patient participants completed a 3-week multi-disciplinary pain management programme, to which their partners were invited to attend one full day. In addition, partners in the adjunctive condition received four, one hour treatment sessions focusing on pain education, patient–partner communication, operant behavioural principles and relapse prevention strategies. Partner sessions for the adjunctive intervention were provided over the telephone. Results: By the completion of the pain programme the adjunctive couples intervention demonstrated significant improvements in marital satisfaction for the spouses over and above attendance at the pain management programme alone (p = 0.003). However, spouse involvement did not facilitate any additional response to treatment for pain patients on marital satisfaction, pain, disability or any indices of distress. All treatment gains were maintained at 1 month follow-up. Conclusions: These data demonstrate that a brief CBT intervention can significantly improve marital satisfaction for spouses of chronic pain patients, but the treatment does not translate to improvements in function on any outcomes, including marital satisfaction, for patients of chronic pain. What does this study add?: A brief, telephone-based intervention for couples living with chronic pain is an acceptable format for intervention. This intervention can significantly improve marital satisfaction for partners of chronic pain patients. Patients who are already participating in a multidisciplinary pain programme will not obtain further benefit.
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