Chronic Pain

Dr. Karina Fuentes, Psychologist, On Chronic Pain And Anxiety Following A Car Accident


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Chronic Pain & Anxiety

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Karina Fuentes, Psychologist. Dr. Fuentes has a private practice in Port Coquitlam where she helps people with conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety and depression. She received her Ph.D in clinical psychology from the University of Victoria in 2001. She explains how therapy helps people with chronic pain and gives advice on driving anxiety after a motor vehicle accident.

What are the signs that a person who is suffering from chronic pain would benefit from seeing a Psychologist?

Some common reasons why people with chronic pain choose to work with a Psychologist include having difficulty overcoming a depressed mood, feelings of guilt about how their pain affects their family, feelings of anger, or difficulty coming to terms with how their pain limits them. Anxiety about doing things that are safe to do also suggests that support from a Psychologist could be helpful. For example, some people with chronic pain are afraid to exercise even though their doctors have said it is safe.

What advice would you give to someone who has been in a car accident and subsequently has anxiety with driving?

The least helpful thing you can do is avoid driving. Avoiding it will help you feel better in the short-term, but as more time passes it will become harder to overcome the anxiety. Having said that, you should not expect yourself to be able to immediately feel as comfortable as you did before with driving. A more helpful approach is to gradually get used to driving again. For example, you might start with short drives around your neighbourhood while practicing anxiety management techniques and then work your way up to more challenging drives.

Describe the impact that seeing a Psychologist can make in the life of someone suffering from chronic pain from an injury caused by a car accident?

Some examples of how a Psychologist can help people include finding different ways of managing their pain, overcoming anxiety about driving or being a passenger, rebuilding confidence, finding hope for the future, and focusing on abilities instead of limitations. Psychologists can teach specific skills for improving sleep, overcoming anxiety and negative thinking, resolving trauma, and learning how to relax.

Will ICBC cover the cost of treatment with a Psychologist?

It is up to your adjuster about whether or not they will provide funds for treatment. If you have a lawyer, you may wish to ask your lawyer to speak with your adjuster about the possibility of funding. Some Psychologists’ fees exceed what ICBC pays, so in that event you may be asked to pay for the difference.

When ICBC provides funding they typically will approve a set number of treatment sessions. Depending on what you and your Psychologist think is best, your Psychologist may submit a request for additional sessions. It is then up to ICBC whether or not additional funding will be provided.

How can family and friends support an individual suffering from chronic pain?

Be aware that although your loved one may look perfectly fine they may be struggling with pain. People with chronic pain are sometimes afraid of burdening friends and family, and they may try to hide how they are really feeling. Planning shorter activities or making sure your loved one can take breaks can be helpful in managing household tasks and social commitments. People with chronic pain usually don’t know how they are going to feel from one day to the next, so patience and understanding are key.