If your doctor suggests that you or your child should see a psychologist for pain, it does NOT mean that you are “faking the pain” or that the medical professional “thinks you are crazy.” On the contrary, pain is an experience that touches every aspect of life — such as play, sleep and socializing. A psychologist can help decrease the interruption pain can have on life.

Pain is in the brain!

Pain is not due purely to tissue damage. There are countless stories of war where a soldier was dragging a person off the field not recognizing his other arm was missing. If pain were due to tissue damage, this soldier would be on the ground in agony.

Because pain is in the brain, we must engage the brain in the treatment of pain as well.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

The type of therapy we use to treat chronic pain is called cognitive behavioral therapy.

This is a skill-based therapy — not just talk therapy — that provides techniques to stop chronic pain from interfering with life. Strategies such as an incentive chart, doing fun activities that have been neglected, deep breathing and relaxation, along with education, can help children return to the activities they enjoy without fear of pain.

If your child has a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression, it is critical for the mood disorder to be diagnosed and treated because untreated mood disorders can make pain resistant to standard treatments.

If your child has chronic pain resulting in:

  • missing school
  • avoiding activities due to fear of pain
  • sleep disturbance
  • anxiety
  • depression

A psychologist can help your child get back on track.


Elisha Peterson Elisha Peterson, MD, FAAP, is a board certified pediatric anesthesiologist and pain medicine physician.

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