Podcast 285: TEAM-CBT for Chronic Pain. Featuring Derek Reilly–
with the Exciting Findings from a New British Outcome Study
Rhonda begins the podcast with two inspiring emails about our recent podcast on “The Unexpected Results of the Latest Beta Test id the Feeling Good App, Part 1 of 2, published on2-28-2022. One is from Vivek Kishore, who used to come to all of my Sunday hikes prior to the pandemic, and Rizwan Syed, MD, from Pakistan, who is an enthusiastic member of my Tuesday training group at Stanford as well as Rhonda’s Wednesday training group.
Here’s what Vivek wrote
Dear David and Jeremy, This is so amazing and has the potential to change the world. I am sure millions across the globe will benefit from this app. Can’t wait for its launch. Thank you!
Here’s what Rizwan wrote:
Reading your books changed my life completely. I am so much happy and optimistic about life compared to highly critical of myself and others and had been so much bitter.
I am sure your team therapy app would be as mind boggling and revolutionary as had been your bibliotherapy.
I am no God. Had I been one, I definitely would have chosen you as my prophet to spread my message.
Today, we interview Derek Reilly, a Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapist, and Registered Mental Health Nurse with 20 years of clinical practice specializing in the treatment in chronic pain. He is an Accredited CBT therapist with the British Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies in the United Kingdom, and a TEAM certified Level 3 TEAM-CBT therapist.
Derek is also a founding member of the new TEAM-CBT UK group. He has published papers on panic, OCD, and pain. He lives in Darfield, a small village in South Yorkshire, which is a mining area in England.
Derek, like a previous guest, Dr. Peter Spurrier, attended a two-day workshop I conducted on TEAM-CBT in the treatment of anxiety disorders in London in 2015. Although I felt quite discouraged during and after the workshop, thinking I’d done a poor job, and since the crowd size was modest at best, a number of those who attended apparently got the message and became excited about TEAM.
Derek said that the emphasis on T = Testing and on A = Assessment of Resistance made the biggest impact on him. He explained it like this:
David described the four forms of Outcome Resistance and the four forms of Process Resistance. I suddenly realized that resistance was huge in the population I was treating, and that my biggest error had been trying to “help,” which usually just triggered more resistance and yes-butting by my patients, who would complain that no one was helping them with their pain. Dropout rates were high, and I also felt frustrated with the lack of progress I was seeing in my patients.
Both Derek and Peter then attended my four-day intensive at the South SF Conference Center in 2017 and got hooked. Derek said:
I thought about testing, and where it could be improved, and developed my own Pain Problem Survey (PPS) of the most common kinds of negative thoughts I was seeing in my patients, as well as the negative feelings these thoughts were triggering, like frustration, anger, anxiety, and more.
I asked them to rate three emotions on a scale of 0 to 10, as well as their cognitions and behaviors, and tried to figure out what the resistance was all about. I also discovered that the simple step of T = Testing helped greatly with the E = Empathy, because my patients began to feel understood. This was different from the way I’d been trained which was to push this or that technique to “help” with their pain.
He said that the concept of “acceptance” is a popular and common buzzword these days among mental health professionals, but there’s a huge difference between intellectual “acceptance” and acceptance at the gut level. He liked the fact that TEAM offered specific tools to bring resistance to conscious awareness and to quickly reduce the resistance as well, as the paradoxical techniques that David has developed.
Some of the common Negative Thoughts he heard from his patients included:
- I should bed doing things quicker.
- I should be responding faster.
- The doctor should fix me.
- Why is this happening to me? This is unfair!
Many had been feeling demoralized that there was no medical solution, and ashamed of the fact that the could no longer work and do things that had once been automatic, like housework, or picking up and hugging the grandchildren, or going to work and earning money. Their disabilities seem to contradict their personal values, and they felt like they were letting people down.
Many of my patients had 10 or even 20 years of suffering and failed treatments, including multiple surgeries in some cases for back pain, for example, and often complained that nobody had been listening to them. That’s why the E of TEAM was so important, and I practiced using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication to respond to their complaints. I worked especially hard on Feeling Empathy. Previously, I’d been way to quick to try to “help,” that just turned my patients off.
I was helped by the empathy technique David developed called “What’s my grade?” I ask my patients, “would you give me an A, a B, or a C or lower so far?” This was crucial.
Then, when I went on to the A = Assessment of Resistance, we began to uncover, or discover, what their negative thoughts and feelings showed about them that was positive and awesome. Because I was practicing in an economically deprived area, I, and many of my colleagues, thought this would be a waste of time, and that my patients might not “get it” because it would seem too brainy or intellectual.
But it was the opposite, and by the third session, many were already beginning to see things through an entirely different set of eyes. For example, they could see the many positive in their feelings of shame, inadequacy, anxiety, hopelessness, and even anger. So they began to feel proud of their negative thoughts and feelings.
It was also helpful to take the “shoulds” out of their negative thoughts and feelings using methods like the Semantic Method and the Double Standard Technique. These approaches proved much more effective in helping people come to terms with loss/change.
Derek described his work with a man who’d been struggling with chronic back pain and depression and daily alcohol abuse, who’d had a suicide attempt and felt useless. Derek said:
He was open to examining his own role in his problems, and agreed to cut down on his alcohol intake. He found the Positive Reframing to be helpful, and saw that his negative thoughts and feelings were actually an expression of his high standards, and that his frustration was the expression of his determination not to give up.
His guilt and shame showed that he had a conscience, and a moral compass, and that he was honest with himself, and that his frustration and depression about being unable to work showed his core values.
Then we did the Magic Dial to see how much he wanted to dial down each negative feeling, like guilt, and used a variety of M = Methods to challenge and crush his negative thoughts. Once he pinpointed and challenged his Hidden Should Statements, his feelings of self-acceptance increased dramatically. Then we ended up using the Externalization of Voices to wipe out his negative thoughts.
Derek and I discussed the role of negative emotions in patients with chronic pain and other “medical” symptoms, like dizziness, and chronic fatigue. I summarized my experience as a medical student working in Stanford’s outpatient medical clinic with Dr. Allen Barbour, and how that approach was similar to the approach that Derek was taking.
I summarized my statistical modeling of three data bases that all showed identical results that the correlation between physical pain and emotional distress is not because physical pain causes emotional distress, but because emotional distress causes an amplification in the experience of pain. This is true of physical pain with a clear medical cause, such as arthritis, as well as so-called “psychogenic pain” where no physical cause can be detected.
Derek summarized his recent study of 60 chronic pain patients he treated with TEAM, which was a retrospective “clinical audit,” or chart review study. The study indicated a 57% reduction in scores on the PHQ-9 & GAD7 (commonly used depression and anxiety tests). These reductions were significant at the p < .0001 level. The changes in the scores on the PPS were also significant.
This is the first piece of preliminary evidence in the UK to show effective TEAM-CBT can be in the treatment of chronic pain. He is writing up these finds with a colleague, Anne Garland, a Consultant Nurse Psychotherapist, and hopes to publish them soon. He also found that other negative feelings were also comparably reduced, including the “big three:” frustration, guilt, and anxiety.
Derek and his colleagues have their own Tuesday training group in England, and I will soon be joining them with Rhonda for a 90 minute Q and A session. If you’d like to learn more about Derek’s work, or if you’re interested in training, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.feelinggood.uk.com.
Rhonda and I greatly enjoyed the recording and share great enthusiasm for Derek’s work spreading the word about TEAM-CBT in England. We hope you enjoyed the podcast as well, and thank you for your support of our efforts!
Rhonda, Derek, and David
Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, but due to Covid-19 restrictions is working mostly via Zoom, and can be reached at email@example.com. She is a Level 4 Certified TEAM-CBT therapist and trainer and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. Check out her new website: www.feelinggreattherapycenter.com.
You can reach Dr. Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the cover of my new book, Feeling Great.
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