In mid-March, prospective leaders of chronic pain support groups all over America gathered in San Francisco for a weekend of specialized training. Skilled trainers from U.S. Pain Foundation were there to teach the strategies that will allow attendees to effectively establish and run support groups across the country.

“This was our fifth chronic pain support group leader training,” said Gwenn Herman, LCSW, DCSW, Clinical Director of Pain Connection, a program of U.S. Pain Foundation. “I am always amazed watching the leaders develop confidence, knowledge, and compassion. This San Francisco training group was wonderful and the family members that attended added depth to our discussions.”

The weekend training, led by Herman and Cindy Steinberg, U.S. Pain’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy, walked attendees through the ABCs of setting up and starting a support group. In addition, they learned how to help their group members utilize their own internal healing abilities, as well as about the psychosocial stages of pain and grief, complementary health approaches, the Pain Connection group model, and how to develop a Treatment Tree Plan and Relapse Prevention Plan.

The program aims to produce trained, confident leaders who can return home and work as a force for change in their area. Especially for people isolated by their pain, finding a community of peers can be life-changing.

Overall reactions to the program were extremely positive. Each participant seemed to find value in a different part of the training, from role-playing exercises, to how to structure a meeting, to the specifics of the Format for Individualized Integrative Treatment, developed by Pain Connection as a holistic, 21st-century model of chronic pain theory.

Although the program is designed and taught by people dealing with chronic pain, that doesn’t mean the weekend itself was not uplifting. As one participant remarked, “I loved the dynamic between Gwenn and Cindy and Malcolm and Marty. It made the weekend fun. Humor is key!”

U.S. Pain Foundation and Pain Connection are planning their sixth training to be on the East Coast in September 2019. To learn more about Pain Connection and its support group offerings and trainings, visit www.painconnection.org.

“I found the entire conference to be extremely helpful in building my confidence to lead a successful group,” said one satisfied group leader. “I’m so grateful to have been with such a knowledgeable, kind and supportive group.”