ENHANCING SOCIAL CONNECTIONS IN A GROUP PAIN MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

Dr Paul Beaton1,2,3, Mrs Simone Marshall1, Mrs Swapna Gokhale1

1Eastern Health Ambulatory Pain Management Services, Upper Ferntree Gully, Australia, 2Cabrini Health – Chronic Diseases, Malvern, Australia, 3Cognicare – Private Practice, Caulfield North, Australia

Abstract:

Aim

Allied health led group Pain Management Programs (PMPs) represent best practice treatment of persistent pain. Social benefits to participants are common, however research is sparse. PMP participants were sampled to identify: 1. changes experienced in their social networks; 2. important factors contributing to changes; 3. most beneficial social support structures and activities; and, 4. how allied health professionals can best facilitate lasting social benefit.

Method

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24  completers of an 8 week public health PMP (67% female, aged 21-75y.o.). Research aims were addressed by qualitative (open ended questions) and quantitative (quality and satisfaction with social networks) measures.

Results

Improvements in social connections were common and can be summarised as: new social roles or activities; increased social skill and confidence; and increased social contact. Identified mechanisms of social growth were: increased fitness/function; improved mood and mindset; and greater opportunity and encouragement to socialise. Activities associated with lasting social improvements included: attendance of a consumer-led support group; engagement in group physical and leisure activities within the community; retraining and re-engagement in work/study.

Significance of findings to allied health:

Practice improvements were recommended by participants, and expanded upon by the researchers. They include, increased:  family/carer involvement, community integration opportunities, and education and encouragement for social connection.  Resources and guideline documents outlining these recommendations can be shared with delegates. The current findings can inform practices across a wide range of allied health-led group programs, in an effort to enhance participants’ social functioning – a much overlooked health outcome.

Biography:

Dr Paul Beaton is a health psychologist with over 5 years experience working at a public interdisciplinary pain management service. He is an active member of the Australian Psychological Society, undertaking the treasurer role for the Victorian Section of the College of Health Psychologists. Paul has presented his research at a range of professional conferences including the Australian Pain Society Symposiums, and  at consumer forums. In addition to his public health position, he works in the allied health centre within a private hospital, and in private practice.