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Papers of the Week

Papers: 22 Jul 2023 - 28 Jul 2023

Clinical, Psychology

Human Studies, Neurobiology

Musculoskeletal Pain, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Jul 19

J Pain


Emotion-focused Psychodynamic Interview for People with Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain and Childhood Adversity: A Randomized Controlled Trial.


Krohner S, Town J, Cannoy CN, Schubiner H, Rapport LJ, Grekin E, Lumley MA


Childhood adversity and emotional conflicts are associated with the presence and severity of chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP), yet common treatments for CMP do not address such risk factors. We developed a single-session, emotion-focused psychodynamic interview, based on Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy and Intensive Short-term Psychodynamic Therapy, and we tested the interview’s effects on pain-related outcomes and potential psychological mediators in a randomized, controlled trial. Adults (N = 91; ages 21 to 70, M = 44.64; 87.9% women) reporting chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) and at least 3 adverse childhood experiences completed measures at baseline and 6-week follow-up. Participants were randomized to immediate interview or waitlist control conditions. The 90-minute interview was conducted via videoconference, and the interviewer elicited disclosure of adversities and conflicts, linked these with pain, and encouraged the experience and expression of adaptive emotions. Analyses indicated that conditions did not differ significantly on change in pain severity; however, compared to control, the interview led to a significantly greater reduction in pain interference (p =.016, ηp = 0.05) and a similar trend for anxiety (p =.058, ηp = 0.04). The interview also significantly changed several potential mediators: pain-related anxiety (p =.008, ηp = 0.06), pain controllability (p =.016, ηp = 0.06), and psychological (p <.001, ηp = 0.15) and brain attributions (p =.022, ηp = 0.05) for pain. Participants viewed the interview as very valuable. We conclude that addressing childhood adversities and conflicts in a psychodynamic interview is beneficial for people with CMP. PERSPECTIVE: This study found that, compared to waitlist control, a 90-minute, remotely-administered, emotion-focused, psychodynamic interview improved pain interference and anxiety among adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain and childhood adversity. Intensive emotional work can be done in a single session to the benefit of patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.