Pain Psychology

Photo: flowers

Pain Psychology Service
Chapel Corridor
Level 4
Torbay Hospital
Lowes Bridge
Torquay TQ2 7BA

Tel: 01803 654251
Email: Pain Psychology Service

Pain Psychology Service aims to improve the psychological wellbeing and experience of people with persistent pain in Torbay and South Devon.

What is Pain Psychology?

Living with Pain that goes on and on can be very difficult. We know that people with pain often experience psychological distress. This may involve difficult thoughts and feelings or being upset about the way that you act when you are in pain.

Our aim is to help you make changes that improve your quality of life, even though you have pain.

If you experience pain every day:

  • You might have worrying thoughts about why the pain is there, what it means and what it might lead to.
  • You might suffer with low mood, frustration, anger or anxiety relating to the pain.
  • You may have experienced a very traumatic event or accident that caused the pain.
  • You may have lost confidence and feel socially isolated.
  • Families can also be affected when a person they care about is in pain.

The Pain Psychology Team consists of Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists with specialist knowledge about pain.

Psychologists use a range of therapies to help people cope emotionally with their experience of pain. These include different ‘talking therapies’ and teaching coping skills, both on an individual basis and in groups.

We discuss thoughts, feelings and relationships, and look at how these are affected by the pain. We also look at how stress and low mood can sometimes maintain or make a pain problem worse.

If a professional refers you to see a psychologist this does not mean they think that your symptoms are ‘made up’, ‘all in your mind’ or unimportant.

We know that your pain is real.

As part of the Pain Team we may work closely with other health professionals involved in your care e.g. the Pain Physiotherapy Rehabilitation Team, Pain Consultants or Pain Nurse.

“Helping individuals maintain their health requires not only knowledge of biology and medical interventions, but an understanding of individual’s beliefs, ideas, feelings and personality. The Pain Management Team are able to provide all of these, therefore contributing towards an excellent personal management plan for the patient.”

patient quote

Who do we see?

We see people with a variety of persistent pain problems. Your pain might be related to a particular condition or could have no clear explanation.

We see people who have moderate to high levels of disability and/or distress relating to their pain. This includes people with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, where pain is the major factor underlying these difficulties.

You will normally meet with another member of the Pain Team such as a pain consultant, nurse or member of the Pain Physiotherapy Rehabilitation team to be referred to the Pain Psychology Service.

You may be offered Pain Psychology to help you to develop new ways of coping so that you can to get the most out of other treatments and therapies offered by the pain team.

You may have persistent pain alongside other difficulties, but difficulties related to your pain do need to be your main concern.

If your problems relate mainly to a neurological or rheumatological condition we would consider whether other specialist health psychology services might better meet your needs. We also link in with the weight management psychologists. We work closely with other services to work out who is best placed to to help you.

If you are already linked in with another psychological therapist, mental health worker or counsellor in a different service we would be happy to offer them advice regarding your pain management concerns. We sometimes see people for a “one off” assessment to help with this.

What we do

We provide specialist psychological assessment and a range of therapeutic options.

Options may include:

  • Educational seminars and workshops where you can gain information and learn skills to help you to cope with the emotional aspects of pain.
  • Psychology Group approaches where you can be supported to develop new ways of coping along with other people with pain concerns. We currently run a group in Compassionate Mind Training for Pain.
  • Pain psychologists also run a group programme with the Pain Physiotherapists. This enables a combined approach to managing emotions, movement and activity.
  • Individual talking therapy where you meet with a psychologist for a series of one to one sessions to address your particular needs. In talking therapies people can choose whether they want to talk in depth about their experiences or work out how to deal with their difficulties in the “here and now”.
  • Therapy approaches include Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness Meditation, Compassion Focused therapy, Compassionate Mind Training, Deep Relaxation training and Motivational interviewing.
  • You may be offered a combined session with a psychologist and one of the other members of the pain team if this would be useful e.g. with the pain physiotherapy rehabilitation team, medical consultant or nurse.
  • You may be directed to other local services and resources fitting your needs.
  • We also work to improve the ability of other health care workers to bring psychological care and thinking into their work with people who have pain:
  • We provide other health professionals with training, supervision and consultation regarding the psychology of pain. This aims to support them in tailoring their approaches to best fit people’s needs.
  • We are key players in developing local and regional services for people with pain .
  • We contribute to developing the understanding of pain psychology at a regional, national and international level.


If you have already seen someone in the Pain Team e.g. Physiotherapy Rehabilitation Team, Specialist Pain Nurse or a Pain Consultant, they can refer you directly to our service.

If you are not seeing anyone in the Pain Service, but are linked in with another health professional in a different service you can ask them to contact the Pain Psychology Service. We are keen to enable people to have more ‘joined up ‘ care across services. We can liaise with other professionals regarding psychological aspects of your pain management if you wish.

If you have Fibromyalgia and are interested in referral to the Pain Service, ask your health professional or GP to refer you to the Pain service following the Fibromyalgia Pathway.

Coming for an assessment

When you have been referred, you will be asked to return an opt-in slip to inform us that you want an appointment. We will then write and invite you to an assessment meeting.

This meeting is an opportunity to talk with a psychologist about whether further work with our service may help you. It normally lasts around an hour.

Before you come along, we send you some questionnaires and ask you please to bring these along as it helps us to understand how things are for you.

At the start of the meeting you will be invited to sign a consent form to show that you agree to the assessment. We will also ask your consent to use information from the questionnaires (anonymously) to look at how our service is doing. Whether you agree to this or not, will not affect any of your care.

The Psychologist will ask you about how your pain is affecting you emotionally and what you struggle with on a day to day basis. They will also ask about any other stresses and experiences which may affect how you are feeling. There is opportunity to find out more about us and how we work.

By the end of the meeting we aim to decide with you how to move forward. Options may include the following:

  • Being invited to join a group about coping with pain.
  • Attending an educational workshop or seminar to learn more about pain and coping with emotions.
  • Individual sessions with a psychologist.
  • Considering whether other services may be helpful.
  • Or an agreement that pain psychology isn’t what you need or want right now.

There is likely to be a wait for these options. In the meantime, we will suggest other resources that may help while you are waiting.

You are welcome to bring someone else along to the assessment if you wish for your support. Anyone coming with you does need to be aged 16 or over please.


We know that patients often want to discuss very personal or private things, so keeping the information you share with us confidential is very important. We do have a duty to keep people safe, so if we were worried about your safety or that of anyone else we would need to share this information with others.

We routinely write a letter summarising the outcome of the assessment meeting. A copy of this will be sent to you, your GP and other health professionals involved in your care. If there is any information you are concerned about sharing we can discuss this together.

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