Chronic Pain

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 support recovery. He considers unprocessed emotional factors to be a significant factor in the delayed recovery. Nick will speak from his experience of training in surgery, osteopathy, acupuncture and more recently Autogenic Therapy.

Georgie Oldfield MCSP
Chronic Pain: Empowering Individuals to Regain their Lives

As a physiotherapist Georgie Oldfield had always used physical therapies to treat chronic pain, aiming to address what was considered to be a physical problem/injury at the site of the painful area. Here she will demonstrate the growing pain science that shows the brain’s involvement in this, highlighting some of the evidence for links between past trauma, adverse childhood experiences and current lifestyle in triggering and perpetuating pain. She will explain how, as a physiotherapist, she is able to support and guide her patients as they follow her educational, self-empowering and emotionally focused approach and how this has enabled her and the health professionals she has trained boost the outcomes of clients who present with chronic pain. She will demonstrate how and why, addressing the underlying causes, rather than treating the pain itself, can often help so many people regain their lives.

Q&A with Georgie Oldfield MCSP

Dr Nick Straiton
Experiential movement practice including Tai Chi Shibashi

Georgie Oldfield MCSP
Tracking and sensation exercise

Dr Frances Sommer Anderson
Treating Chronic Pain – Affect Recognition, Regulation and Memory Reconsolidation
Using a clinical case example, Frances will illustrate how chronic somatic pain, associated with a traumatic memory in adulthood, was related to the adult’s early life stress. She will elucidate how developing an empowered sense of self in relationship to this traumatic memory relieved the somatic pain that had become a distraction from the emotional pain of that memory. Thus, the adult memory was effectively “reconsolidated” such that recalling that memory with a new sense of agency was no longer dysregulating and the somatic pain was relieved.

Q&A with Dr Frances Sommer Anderson

All panel Q&A



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Introductions and Housekeeping

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

Dr Nick Straiton
The Complexity of Pain Conditions and the Need for a Biopsychosocial Treatment