Review: The Way Out by Alan Gordon, LCSW

Alan Gordon is the Director of the Pain Psychology Center in Los Angeles, and I’ve been waiting with bated breath for his book to come out. The fact is that we have a chronic pain epidemic in this country, and many of us as therapists will see clients with chronic pain, whether that is their primary presenting symptom or not.

It’s a bit of a dicey topic with clients to suggest that their thinking/brain/mind may have something to do with their pain – it’s often insulting like “do you think my pain is just in my head?” As Gordon says “do you feel your pain? Then it’s real.” But he’s correct in saying that physical pain is a conversation between the mind/brain and the body – every time we feel pain, it’s our brain that is sending the signal to initiate pain. With chronic pain, Gordon says that those neurons have fired together so much that the brain becomes “stuck on” with pain signals, sometimes after the physical injury should have run its course. He calls this neuroplastic pain.

Because a person in pain gets in a cycle of fear about their pain, the main thrust of Pain Reprocessing Therapy is to understand that it’s just your brain misfiring and to send yourself messages of safety. After determining the pain may be neuroplastic, clients do “somatic tracking”, which is to just observe their bodies with curiosity instead of the fear-based laser focus they usually use. Clients also send themselves messages of safety instead of fear.

While I’m dubious that this is a 100% ironclad treatment for pain, I have found many of the things he’s saying to be true with my chronic pain clients. I will absolutely keep this book handy and use these techniques with willing chronic pain clients. Since chronic pain is such a common issue, I suggest having this book on hand for clinicians, even if chronic pain is not your specialty.

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