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Treating chronic pain through reading

About one in five people suffers from chronic pain, a condition that has both physical and psychological repercussions. These patients are a challenge for health professionals, as they are difficult to treat. One of the keys to managing persistent pain is acceptance and commitment therapy, such as bibliotherapy, a therapy that involves the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. Frédérick Dionne, Ph. D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, studied the effectiveness of this type of intervention in 140 adults with chronic pain.

For eight weeks, half of the participants (70) read the book Libérez-vous de la douleur. This book adheres to the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy in chronic pain management, for example through the use of mindfulness meditation exercises. Research assistants provided minimal follow-up for the group, including weekly email reminders. The other half was assigned to a waiting list as a control group. All participants completed various questionnaires relating to their physical and mental health before, after, and three months following the experiment.

The psychological intervention was seen to significantly improve the physical and emotional functioning of adults with chronic pain. These findings are of prime importance in a context in which there is a lack of resources for face-to-face therapy. In fact, this lack of resources led the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec to implement the Programme québécois pour les troubles mentaux (PQPTM), a step-by-step organization of care based on self-management. Professor Dionne’s bibliotherapy study supports the validity of this intervention approach, which he has also applied to other problems, such as academic procrastination.