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Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2011 Oct;16(4):575-98. doi: 10.1177/1359104510387886. Epub 2011 May 12.

A developmental, body-oriented intervention for children and adolescents with medically unexplained chronic pain.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, NSW, Australia.


The regulation of pain and other emotions is a developmental process that takes place in the context of attachment relationships. Children with chronic, medically unexplained pain struggle to accurately identify, communicate and regulate negative body states, and to connect these body states to their day-to-day experience. This article describes an individual intervention - one component of a multimodal treatment programme - whose aim is to help children find skills to manage their pain. The intervention incorporates ideas and practices from several theoretical models - the dynamic-maturational model of attachment, cognitive-behavioural theories, narrative therapy, art therapy, sensorimotor approaches -pragmatically selected and adapted to help children presenting to our Chronic Pain Service achieve good clinical outcomes. At the outset we assess the child's capacity to identify, regulate and communicate positive and negative body states, and tailor our individual intervention so as to extend each child's proximal level of development. We initially focus on the body in an effort to equip the child with a non-verbal, image-based language for identifying and communicating pain and other negative body states. Once the child has developed a non-verbal way of knowing her body, a range of cognitive-behavioural, narrative and other strategies are introduced. The intervention aims to increase the child's emotional functioning: her skill in identifying, symbolically representing, communicating and managing pain and other negative body states.

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