Chronic Pain and Disrupted Early Attachments

Chronic Pain and Disrupted Early Attachments
A Holistic Overview for Psychotherapists

With Dr Frances Sommer Anderson, Georgie Oldfield MCSP and Dr Nick Straiton

Recorded Saturday 27 February 2021

This multi-disciplinary conference will examine the early foundations of chronic pain and how to work with these conditions therapeutically. The impact of the ongoing pandemic on people who experienced early life adversity will be acknowledged. Our speakers include a psychologist/psychoanalyst, musculoskeletal physician and physiotherapist. Offering distinct but related understandings and techniques, drawing on relational, neurobiological and attachment studies, they will outline the aetiology of chronic pain in their adult patients, and how they work with this.




Introductions and Housekeeping

Dr Frances Sommer Anderson
A 40-Year Relational Psychoanalytic Perspective on Treating Chronic Pain

Extensive research in the neurobiology of attachment and emotional and cognitive development has shown that interactions with caregivers from the beginning of life shape the architecture of our brain. These “dyadic interactions” lay down neural circuits, creating templates for being soothed when distressed. During these early formative years of physical, emotional and social development, we are dependent on the “inference,” “embodied empathy” and “vitalizing attunement” of our caregivers to label our subjective bodily sensations. The quality of these processes will be unconsciously activated when our bodies and our feelings are injured later in life. When we take our body to the physician who diagnoses somatic pain, the quality of the relationship and the education that the physician offers constitute the beginning of healing or the reinforcement of engrained circuits of fear and hopelessness that contribute to chronic pain. Today we will learn about the “hidden epidemic” of medical illness and disease stemming from early life adversities and how to work with these creatively.

Dr Nick Straiton
The Complexity of Pain Conditions and the Need for a Biopsychosocial Treatment
In this talk our speaker will illustrate how – through clinical experience as a musculoskeletal physician working with those in chronic pain in the NHS since 1996 – he has moved from an approach that perceives this as a purely physical problem to a complex and nuanced state needing a wide lens treatment. In the field of musculoskeletal medicine clinicians are typically asked to find and treat a specific organic cause for a patient’s chronic pain. After years of observing patients’ difficulty in reaching full health Nick has developed a new approach which recognises the complexity of such conditions and the frequent need for biopsychosocial strategies to su