A total of 25 individuals gathered Feb. 29 and March 1 in San Diego, CA, for Pain Connection’s seventh chronic pain support group leaders training.

The majority of the attendees were people with chronic pain, but several caregivers and licensed mental health professionals were also in attendance. Participants go on to start local support groups; presently, as a result of the trainings, Pain Connection offers 19 in-person groups and five monthly call-in groups.

“It’s been great hearing everyone’s story,” said Lucy Dunning, LPC, a licensed professional counselor from South Carolina, who lives with peripheral neuropathy. “My journey hasn’t been that long–it’s only been two and a half years. But I was at a really bad place for a while, and coming here helped me understand that I’m not alone. I think that’s something that this community really needs. I’m really looking forward to being out there and making a difference.”

Topics over the weekend included:

  • The logistics of starting, running, and maintaining a successful group
  • The psychosocial stages of pain and grief
  • Developing Treatment Tree Plans and Relapse Prevention Plans
  • Identifying meetings topics that help group members to utilize their own internal healing abilities
  • Incorporating complementary health approaches and other strategies for pain (such as cognitive reframing, acupressure, breathing techniques)

In addition, physical therapist Suparna Damany, MSPT, CHT, CEAS, was featured as a guest speaker, discussing challenges in current models of physical therapy and the health care system overall.

While learning techniques for helping others, attendees also gain a better sense of how to cope with pain on a personal level.

“Through the training, I’ve gained a larger network of support, not only people I know who are looking to start support groups, but also other people with chronic pain,” said Calvin Eaton, a pain ambassador from New York and founder of a nonprofit, 540WMain. “That’s always the value of U.S. Pain events. Having that network is so valuable to living and surviving chronic illness. I’m really happy to be here.”

The trainings, held approximately twice a year, are led by Gwenn Herman, LCSW, DCSW, Clinical Director of Pain Connection, a program of U.S. Pain Foundation, and Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy of U.S. Pain.

Nine participants received a scholarship to attend from U.S. Pain Foundation; five individuals received scholarships from Miles for Migraine and/or the National Headache Foundation. U.S. Pain thanks its sponsor, Johnson & Johnson, for supporting this important training, as well as its Corporate Council for supporting programs like Pain Connection, year-round.