Register for Feb. 2021!

SD Virtual Pain Summit Presenter Information


Conference Presenters for Feb. 2021

On this page you will find all the presenter's biographies, titles, and synopsis. They are listed alphabetically by last name. 

The breakout session leaders biographies are listed after the section with the presenters. 


Keynote John Launer, Ph.D.

Title: Conversations Inviting Change: Narrative-Based Practice in Health Care

Synopsis: Conversations Inviting Change (CIC) is a model of interactional skills training based on narrative studies, communication theory and systems thinking. It was first developed at the Tavistock Clinic in London as an approach to healthcare consultations and peer supervision. Since then, it has been introduced to over two thousand people in the United Kingdom and abroad..

CIC is based on the simple idea that everyone - whether as a patient, client, learner or colleague - can benefit from telling stories about their experiences, and being skillfully questioned about these. It can be applied in person-centred consultations with individuals and families, supervision, coaching and mentoring, team development and facilitation, training in reflective practice and professionalism, and in leadership and management. It is effective in helping people to move on when they feel stuck, and ideal for difficult or challenging encounters. 

This presentation will explain the origins of CIC, along with its fundamental principles. It will include an account of how the model is used in consultations with patients and their families, in training and supervising in the health care professions, and in enhancing team working. It will also cover evaluation and research into the effects of CIC training.

Bio: John Launer is a doctor, educator and award-winning writer. With a dual professional background in general practice and family therapy, as well a degree in English literature, John's interests range across the borders of health care, systems thinking, and the humanities. They include clinical supervision for the health professions, team development in the health service, and narrative medicine. 

John's current roles include lead for educational innovation in primary care for Health Education England in London. His other posts include honorary senior lecturer in primary care at University College London, honorary lifetime consultant at the Tavistock Clinic, faculty member at ISTUD business school in Milan and honorary president of the Association of Narrative Practice in Healthcare He is a founder member of the International Association for Spielrein Studies and on its steering group.


Keynote Melanie Noel, Ph.D., RPsych

Title: Trauma and Pain: An Intergenerational Problem

Synopsis: There is now compelling evidence showing that early life trauma can lead to pain problems, which can persist for generations. Yet, how trauma ‘gets under the skin’ to ignite pain problems is unknown. Children with chronic pain and their parents experience trauma symptoms at much higher rates than non-pain populations and trauma is linked to worse pain and functioning. Nevertheless, trauma is rarely assessed or targeted in pain clinics. Conceptual models of mutual maintenance posit that neurobiological, cognitive-behavioral, and interpersonal factors drive this relationship, but this has not been empirically shown in longitudinal research.

Dr. Noel will present an overview of research on the integral link between trauma and pain as well as new data from a cohort of treatment-seeking youth with chronic pain and their parents (N=200) integrating methods in brain-imaging, ecological momentary assessment, and activity monitoring demonstrating the roles of brain activation, sleep disturbances, and parent factors in the co-occurrence and maintenance of trauma (Adverse Childhood Experiences, PTSD) and pediatric chronic pain over time.

Data demonstrating epigenetic and behavioural (parenting responses, sleep disturbances) mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of risk for pediatric chronic pain across generations will be presented. This will parallel preclinical findings from rodent models. Overlapping epigenetic factors yielded from combining the animal and human models will be identified. 

Dr. Noel will also discuss how the chronic pain experience can in and of itself be traumatic (e.g., diagnostic uncertainty, iatrogenic effects of clinical encounters). The talk will end with a discussion of promising new treatment models to target underlying mechanisms and social factors to promote resilience and recovery.

Three objectives for the presentation

1.) To understand the high co-occurrence of trauma and chronic pain in childhood and how the nature of a chronic pain problem can be in and of itself, traumatic.

2.) To understand the mechanisms and factors that lead to the development and maintenance of both problems and that can be targeted in treatment.

3.) To describe how trauma and pain is transmitted across generations through neurobiology and behavior.

Bio: Melanie Noel, PhD, RPsych is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Calgary and a Full Member of the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. She directs the Alberta Children’s Pain Research Lab within the Vi Riddell Pain & Rehabilitation Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Canada.  

Dr. Noel’s expertise is on children’s memories for pain and co-occurring mental health issues and pediatric chronic pain. She published guiding conceptual models of children’s pain memory development, co-occurring PTSD and chronic pain, and fear-avoidance (109 peer-reviewed papers, H index = 31). In recognition of her contributions to advancing knowledge of the psychological aspects of children’s pain, Dr. Noel received early career awards from the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), the Canadian Pain Society, the American Pain Society, the Canadian Psychological Association, and the Society of Pediatric Psychology.

She was named Avenue Magazine Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 (Class of 2017) and a Killam Emerging Research Leader (2020).


Samantha Adcock



Bio: TBA


Biafra Ahanonu, Ph.D.

Title: Illuminating neural circuit dynamics of pain processing with in vivo imaging and computational techniques

Synopsis: How does the nervous system integrate multiple, sometimes competing, external sensory signals and decide appropriate actions to take given prior knowledge and the current state of the world? To address this and other fundamental neuroscience questions, novel technologies have been developed, leading to new opportunities for large-scale analysis of the resulting massive and complex neurobehavioral datasets.

I will present results from studies that give insights into the coding of pain by specific neural ensembles along with new and improved computational methods for analyzing largescale neural imaging datasets.

Taken together, these studies and tools will allow us to better understand pain processing in the nervous system and interrogate neural circuits. An unpleasant percept dominates the affective component of pain, which provides a motivational drive to initiate protective behaviors that limit exposure to noxious (“painful”) stimuli. Detailed mechanisms of how noxious inputs are transformed into pain percepts and appropriate behavioral outputs remains unclear.

I will discuss in vivo freely moving calcium imaging experiments that show that a noxious stimuli-responsive amygdalar neural ensemble codes for pain and that a subset of this ensemble is stable across days to weeks. We find that heightened behavioral responses after nerve injury parallel alterations in the neural pain code and that this neural ensemble is necessary to produce affectivemotivational, but not reflexive, pain behaviors.

This suggests a therapeutic route to reduce the unpleasant aspect of pain while retaining the critical sensory and reflexive components. I will then feature future and ongoing studies using large-scale neural analysis in awake animals to understand pain processing in the brain and spinal cord.

Lastly, I will briefly highlight enhanced imaging and neural circuit analysis using our calciumImagingAnalysis software package ( and development of methods for log-likelihood-based calcium imaging cell extraction and machine learning-based automated cell classification.

Bio: Hailing from beautiful, sun-drenched Arizona (the greatest state in the Union!), I obtained my B.Sc. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), majoring in Biology and Brain & Cognitive Sciences. There I worked in neuroscience- and biology-focused labs at MIT, at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus, and across the globe in Switzerland, Spain, Mexico, and Singapore.

My doctoral work in Dr. Mark Schnitzer’s lab at Stanford University described a “pain code” in the rodent amygdala that plays a role in the unpleasantness of pain, published in Science, along with characterizing the role of striatal circuits in behavior and developing computational techniques for calcium imaging and animal behavior analysis (see

I am currently a Postdoctoral Scholar in Dr. Allan Basbaum’s lab at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where I study the molecular properties and neural coding principles of pain transmission neurons. My publications can be found at

Outside research I have led organizations and programs (e.g. Stanford Biosciences Student Association), reviewed and approved human studies (Stanford Institutional Review Board), and more. I play tennis and other sports, code, write short stories, and love learning or discussing anything—especially history, neuroscience, and space. Find out more about me at


Michael Amato, PT

Title: Pain and Attention: Focusing on the Lived Body

Synopsis: Pain as more than just a sensation, but as an experience that is lived through can be challenging to explore as it exposes oneself to the meanings of pain that extends beyond the mechanisms of tissue physiology and neuroscience. The intent of this presentation is not to trivialize the work done at the biological level that can help drive the understanding and treatment of people in pain, but to start at the beginning: when pain interrupts life and demands the attention of the person in pain.

The focus here is to explore the attention demanding aspects of pain—and more specifically, how this relates to the lived experience of pain and its possible role in developing hypervigilance and chronicity. The presentation will explore empirical evidence on hypervigilance and fear-avoidance to models of attention and cognition, and ultimately back to how this all relates to the lived experience of the person in pain, informing treatment and the healing process.

By the end, we will question whether pain should be modeled as an object that can be attended to or as a meaning-making process that relates the lived body and the world.

Bio: Michael Amato is a physical therapist based out of Winchester, MA, where he treats and serves as the Director of Clinical Education at Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness. His primary focus of care is centered around exercise and education, applying principles of strength and conditioning, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy to help individuals of all levels reach their goals in health and fitness.

Through his work, Michael hopes to help reduce the societal burden and change some of the narratives around chronic pain. Outside of the clinic, Michael is involved in Barbell Medicine as part of the Pain & Rehab Division, providing remote consultations and programming for clients, and podcasting and writing with his colleagues.

His particular interest in pain revolves around the lived experience of pain and suffering and how practitioners view this experience through their patients.


Linda Crawford, OTR/L, CDWF

Title: Do, Feel, Think--Humanizing the Pain Experience: An Occupational Therapy Perspective

Synopsis: As humans we experience life as thinking, feeling, and doing beings. We have access to current research and evidence that helps guide us with addressing the thinking and feeling aspects of the pain experience, but what about the doing? How can we better support people in the actual real-life doing of the changes they want to make?

In this presentation we will explore how our perspectives of thinking, feeling, and doing shape our go-to approaches in helping and supporting people in pain. Sharing from an occupational therapy perspective, Linda will challenge us to rethink how we engage with people in pain, and explore how altering our perspective to focus more on the experiences of “doing” can result in improvements in the lived experiences of people in pain.

Bio:  Linda's compassionate and knowledgeable care has helped her clients with restoring their bodies, rebuilding their lives, and renewing their joy. Her unique bio-psycho-social, whole-body, whole-life rehabilitation process has been successful for individuals suffering with a variety of complex pain and health conditions. She is also one of the few practitioners treating CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) successfully using the latest clinical therapy techniques including Graded Motor Imagery. 

Linda has been an occupational therapist for over 30 years with a wealth of experience in treating individuals with chronic and acute illnesses, injuries, and life altering health challenges. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient hospital, ICU, cardiac care, burns, orthopedic, neuro, and acute and long term rehabilitation units. She also developed outpatient neuro, wheelchair and specialized seating clinics, and has provided in-home therapy and home modification assessments. In addition to her current specialization in complex pain and health rehabilitation, Linda spent 10+ years specializing in brain injury and stroke rehabilitation.

Linda has pursued ongoing education in the field of occupational therapy, as well as continuing education in treating complex pain conditions, brain injury and stroke rehabilitation, NDT (Neuro-Developmental Treatment), Graded Motor Imagery, persistent pain, Pilates for rehabilitation, psychology, sensory processing, pelvic pain conditions, eating disorder treatment, and has a particular interest in researching neuroscience and narrative treatment approaches for persistent physical pain.

Linda is also a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator. As one of the few occupational therapists certified by Brené Brown, she has successfully adapted an integrated her Daring Greatly™ and Rising Strong™ work for the treatment of complex pain and health conditions.


Blaise Doran

Title: Managing persistent pain in young people: Assembling the physical, psychological, social through the philosophical

Synopsis: As with working with adults who experience persistent pain, working with young people has some complex challenges. There are, of course, differences that make this area of rehabilitation unique. There are the more frequently reported elements of cognitive, physical and psychological development to take into account, and then there are the ‘structural’ and ‘substructural’ factors that are not always obvious.

The presentation will take a physiotherapy (physical therapy) perspective, because that is my professional perspective. However, it will not aim to go over treatment techniques per se. Rather, it will aim to provide some strategies to overtly consider potential perpetuating and protective factors that may be influencing a young person’s pain experience.

Bio: I am a UK-trained physiotherapist with 16 year’s post-qualification experience. From the outset of my physiotherapy career, I have always gravitated to working in publicly-funded healthcare in inpatient and outpatient settings (predominantly neurological rehabilitation and chronic pain management).

Other miscellaneous areas of interest, and experience:

  • I am a peer reviewer for the journal Disability and Rehabilitation.
  • I am a member of the Critical Physiotherapy Network, and have co-authored a chapter in
    their first book Manipulating Practices: A Critical Physiotherapy Reader (2018).
  • I have an interest in clinical ethics, and am a member of the Royal Children’s Hospital clinical
    ethics response group, as well as a clinical advisory group dealing
    with the management of complex, medically unexplained symptoms.
  • I was a professional actor for 10 years prior to retraining as a physiotherapist.


Amy Eicher, BSED, MAR, PTA

Title: A Tale Of Two Stories, Our Needs & Their Needs: The Power Of Words & How We Affect Conditions For Healing In Chronic Pain Patients

Synopsis: Treating those experiencing pain can be challenging. Just like being treated for pain. In a journey where clinicians and patients travel side by side, they often misunderstand the language of the other.

During this session we will explore moments in the patient and clinician journey where communication is key, biases need to be acknowledged and joint exploration is must.  Let’s open our minds to the messiness of the human experience on both sides of the table and prepare to challenge the culture of our professions and what it means to provide evidence-based person-centered care that promotes health and well-being.

Bio: Amy Eicher, BSED, MAR, PTA, author, speaker and pain coach combines her 20-year-long journey through pain with her love of learning to help others use their own complex stories to recover from chronic pain. She is the host of the Restoring You, a podcast that shares health success stories, and draws on her experience as an educator and youth ministry leader to provide dynamic public workshops for clinicians and their patients. Eicher is a graduate of Illinois State University in Normal, where she lives with her two children. Visit her online at or on Facebook at

Link to book:

Podcast: Restoring YOU 


Sheren Gaulbert

Title: TBA

Synopsis: TBA

Bio: Sheren Gaulbert, Pain Relief Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Speaker, Mentor, Educator, Trustee Vulval Pain Society (VPS), Host of VPS Webinars and Conference, which brings together multidisciplinary vulval health clinicians with patients. She is passionate about patient voices being heard and connecting them with clinicians to foster meaningful, productive discussions.

Diagnosed with unprovoked vulvodynia in 1999 after a lifetime of intermittent pain and comorbid conditions, it took 10 years from diagnosis and unsuccessfully trialling different treatments, for her to test – with a healthy dose of scepticism - self-hypnosis and later Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy (QCH), starting her on her journey toward freedom. Her curiosity to find out why it was working and how she could help others, led her to seek out further training for a better grounding in pain neurophysiology, and to understand best practice models from current, up-to-date treatment methodologies and pain science.

Sheren has a specialist interest in female and male pelvic pain and is currently working on the Pelvic Pain Toolkit, which includes short information videos, with Pain Toolkit founder Pete Moore.

A proponent of interdisciplinary, collaborate treatment teams to deliver better care, Sheren runs courses for health professionals and one-to-one mentoring for clinicians ready to learn from different modalities. She of course believes in effective treatment plans which treat the individual – the whole complex person, considering their values, beliefs, expectations, cognitive evaluations, contextual, cultural factors and more. She has a particular interest in childhood experiences and their link to adult beliefs and hypervigilant behavioural responses, effective communication including body language, how other health professionals can make use of simple conversational hypnosis to effect change, and nocebo (the latter being a favourite rant topic)!

She is founder of the Break Through Pain Programme: a tailored, collaborative and action-orientated approach which utilises the QCH framework to help each unique individual experiencing persistent pain, start living a better quality of life, more comfortably doing more of the things that give them joy.

Her current ponderings lay with how beliefs and perceptions can be shifted with modalities such as QCH or CBT for some people, but not for others. What makes the difference and whether this can this be measured.

Sheren is a member of IASP, Pain Education SIG and Abdominal & Pelvic Pain SIG

Vulval Pain Society webinars on You Tube can be found here:
Sheren’s website: 


Nathan Hutting, Ph.D.

Title: DIY: Self-management support

Synopsis: Persistent musculoskeletal pain is a worldwide health problem resulting in negative effects on individuals' well-being and substantial costs to society. Recently, there has been discussion about effective treatment approaches to persistent musculoskeletal pain and disorders.

According to the IASP Curriculum Outline on Pain for Physical Therapy, the primary therapeutic objective of physical therapists working with people experiencing pain is to provide evidence-based person-centered care that promotes health and well-being across the lifespan.

Physical therapists have a role to provide contemporary education about pain and to encourage early engagement of every patient in appropriate evidence-based active pain-management strategies (what the patient can do themselves), rather than solely focusing on the use of passive interventions (what you do for the patient). In this regard, treatment interventions need to be designed to form part of an overall pain-management approach at the core of which lies self-management.

A person-centered approach that focuses on self-management and a healthy lifestyle is important to restore and maintain function, to improve participation in the long term, and to provide a management plan instead of a cure.

Bio: Dr Nathan Hutting is currently working as a researcher at the HAN University of Applied Sciences, research group Occupation & Health in The Netherlands. Nathan is also working as a physical therapist and manual therapist in a private practice and is a board member of the Dutch Association for Manual Therapy and the Member Organisation delegate of the Netherlands in the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMPT). His PhD thesis (2015) entitled “Effectiveness of a self-management program for employees with complaints of the arm, neck, and/or shoulder” consisted of seven peer-reviewed publications.

His current research topics include (work related) musculoskeletal disorders, self-management, manual therapy, and the integration of occupational factors within physical therapy practice. Nathan was trained as a Chronic Disease Self-Management Master Trainer (Self-Management Resource Center, Palo Alto, USA) and published an Viewpoint article about the role of physical therapists  in promoting the use of self-management strategies for people with persistent musculoskeletal disorders in JOSPT in 2019. In the past years, Nathan was involved in several research projects on self-management.

As primary applicant or co-applicant, Nathan has received over 550.000 euro of research funding. Nathan has given many (inter)national presentations and chaired focused symposia at the WCPT congresses in 2017 and 2019 and at the IFOMPT conferences in 2016 and 2020.

Nathan is an associate editor of BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, a member of the advisory board of the Dutch Repetitive Strain Injury Association, and a member of the Scientific College Physical Therapy of the Royal Dutch Society for Physical Therapy.


Paul McCambridge

Title: Implementation Of Clinical Guidelines - The Big Problem

Synopsis: This presentation addresses the problem of implementing clinical guidelines in clinical practice. In recent Systematic reviews both Holopainen et al (2020), Kamper at al (2020) Zadro et al (2019) it seems quite clear that despite knowing the guidelines, many therapists do not implement the guidelines and we will consider why this is so and what we can do about it. 

Peter Crofts 2018 paper clearly states that it is increasingly clear that simply expecting clinicians to adhere more closely to evidence based guidelines is not going to close the evidence-practice gap. Merging together the information about mass media campaigns from O'Keefe (2018) and Zaina's (2020) conclusion that there is an immediate need for more translational rehabilitation research together with Nina Olsen's 2013 qualitative literature suggesting that both students and clinical instructors perceived a need for role models in evidence-based practice, I simply ask the question why more of us are not visually showing what we do on social media to perhaps inspire and BE these role models. 

How can we make implementing guidelines interesting and sexy enough to drive behaviour change amongst clinicians as well as patients.  I will be very visually open showing what my team does in clinical practice, how we attempt to implement clinical guidelines and why I feel more of us need to do this to address this implementation problem.   From analysis paralysis to playing around in uncertainty.

Bio: Paul has been working in the Health and Fitness industry for over 20 years and is currently a Lecturer at the University of South Wales, a Co-Director at "Back to Roots", an innovative creative health company which also designs CPD content for healthcare professionals. 

He also is the non executive director at a very large online fitness and well being platform (www.resultswithlucycom).  In collaboration with this platform, Paul has created an online website to help people self manage their own chronic back pain, known as "ThePain.Clinic", due to be launched very soon.  This App has been  developed with the assistance of Post Doctoral Researcher and KCL counselling psychologist Dr Cerisse Gunasinghe and will be a part of the H.Y.P.E project (Improving the Health of Young People evaluation Project).   

Paul has also recently helped with the H.E.R.O.N (Health Inequalities Research Network) "Up&Running" community wellbeing program, where he drove the content creation in a more innovative fun bio-psycho-social direction.  The networks has led to Paul being involved in current research projects evaluating the prevalence of chronic pain and physical inactivity in urban communities with low socioeconomic status.  You can read more about the fantastic work of H.E.R.O.N here (
Paul's educational background has stemmed from an undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science and a Masters degree from BPP McTimoney College of Chiropractic.  He has also previously worked Nuffield private hospitals as a Physiologist in a variety of hospitals around the U.K. and ran a successful health and wellbeing company in London for several years.
After starting a PhD with the University of Southampton on models of MSK treatment within the NHS, Paul was headhunted to help change the narrative around rehabilitation and functional management section within Chiropractic education at the University of South Wales, a large project to change and influence an entire profession but one Paul very much enjoys and has put his PhD on hold which will switch to USW once he has firmly established his influence on active care and self management within Chiropractic education.


Richard McIlmoyle

Title: Stop searching for the Sasquatch. Throwing time, money and effort on mechanistic predictors for responders to manipulation is a mythical journey.

Synopsis: Efforts have been made to determine if there are predictors for those who will respond to various interventions. If we shift our focus and understand the mechanisms behind our interventions we can understand why this search will never bear any fruit as exemplified by the research already performed. Better predictors of patient's response to treatment may lie in the psychosocial realm, rather than the biological.

Bio: I have been a practicing chiropractor for 20 years and underwent a sea-change in 2011-2012, which was triggered by a confluence of events. I was exposed to Lorimer Moseley and David Butler’s Explain pain and had a close friend experiencing the initiation of what has come to be a persistent pain situation for her. Delving further into the research and listening to discussions which more fully explored the biopsychosocial framework, helped rectify what had been years of discordance between my ideas on how treatment effect was occurring and what I heard and saw. It has become my mission to try and change how care is delivered to reduce harm and increase the benefit we bring to the lives of our patients.

The clinic that I co-own, is a place where all practitioners, from the Acupuncturist to the Chiropractors, Massage Therapists and Physiotherapists all use the same narrative and understand the mechanisms that are best suited to support our patients on their path. The classes I teach, with PainBC and through our business, Achieve Health, are all geared to create a change in manual therapy that will reduce the burden of pain on an individual and societal level.

Attending the first San Diego Pain Summit introduced me to a whole cast of characters who were either going through or had gone through the great upheaval and I have been coming back ever since. Through furthering my studies in Pain management with the University of Alberta and becoming a influencer in chiropractic research by appointment to the Research Chair of the Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation, I have concluded that we should drive change through acceptance of the hypotheses that have become hard to cling to in face of the evidence.

I want to introduce the idea that changing how we understand our treatment effects should drive research in a direction that best utilizes our resources and stops chasing ideas that are about as likely to be found as the Sasquatch.


Annie O'Conner

Title: TBA

Synopsis: TBA

Bio: TBA


Jackie Walumbe, BSc, MSc

Title: “Just get on with it”- an exploration of the ideological, interventional and experiential meanings of self-management of chronic pain

Synopsis: Self-management of long-term pain is a well-accepted term that is widely used by both practitioners and people living with pain. Despite its ubiquitous and widespread use, there are different ways that people use and practice self-management in the practice of pain management, as well as in other long-term conditions.

These differences in understanding have not always been explored or even acknowledged, which can lead to unintended consequences for services offering self-management and for those seeking support with their own pain experiences.

I will outline the emergence of the phrase ‘self-management’ in pain management, following its historical use and evolution, drawing on health policy, clinical practice, research evidence and from emerging empirical work. I will explore the role of agency, advocacy, equity and social justice in self-management of chronic pain and invite participants to consider how these concerns affect their own practice or experience living with pain.

Bio: Jackie is an advance practice physiotherapist at University College London Hospitals NHS Trust in London, UK. Jackie works as part of a multidisciplinary inpatient team (complex pain team) based in a tertiary care hospital and is involved in the management of complex pain in an integrated system across specialities as well as primary, community, secondary and tertiary care. Jackie is an independent prescriber and clinical researcher. She is in the third year of a four-year DPhil (PhD) in Primary Health Care at the Nuffield Department of Primary Health Care Sciences, University of Oxford as part of a NIHR/HEE Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship. Her research is focused on understanding how self-management is understood and enacted by people living with chronic pain, and how they are supported in policy and practice using mixed qualitative methods.


Rachel Zoffness

Title: CBT for Chronic Pain: Bridging the Gap between Medicine & Psychology

Synopsis: For decades, chronic pain has been perceived as a purely biomedical problem. As such, it has historically been treated with primarily biomedical solutions like pills and procedures. We now find ourselves in the midst of an opioid crisis. One hundred million Americans struggle to find solutions for their pain, and rates of chronic pain continue to rise. Due to widespread misinformation and a lack of pain education across disciplines, patients and providers alike are in the dark about pain.

Science tells us that pain is not purely biomedical, but rather biopsychosocial – the product of biological, cognitive, emotional, social and contextual factors working in concert to produce and reduce pain. Indeed, research supports the efficacy of nonpharmacological, biobehavioral treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for pain management.

However, psychosocial pain management strategies are under-prescribed, and often viewed as “last resort” despite the fact that they’re evidence-based and have zero side effects. It’s time to bridge the gap between medicine and psychology, brain and body, physical and emotional. This talk will unify the various disciplines treating pain under the shared umbrella of pain education and a biopsychosocial approach to pain management. It will outline the biopsychosocial model, describe the role of thoughts and emotions in pain amplification and reduction, define CBT and the role of biobehavioral strategies in pain management, outline how to “explain pain” using neuroscience and metaphor, and address and explode the stigma around “therapy for pain.”

Additionally, attendees will get to look inside the mysterious black box of CBT and learn specific strategies and techniques to help turn the volume down on pain.

Bio: Rachel Zoffness PhD is a pain psychologist, author, medical consultant, and leader in the field of pain education. She serves on the board of the American Association of Pain Psychology (AAPP) and founded AAPP’s Pediatric Division. Dr. Zoffness is an assistant clinical professor at UCSF Medical School, where she teaches pain education to medical residents and interns. She also provides lectures and trainings, serves as a consultant to hospitals and health professionals, and consults on the development of pain education programs worldwide. Dr. Zoffness is the author of The Chronic Pain and Illness Workbook for Teens, a CBT-based pain management workbook for youth, caregivers and providers, and piloted the Psychology Today column “Pain, Explained.” She was trained at Brown, Columbia, UCSD, SDSU, the NYU Child Study Center, St. Luke's-Mt Sinai Hospital, and the Mindful Center. Her second workbook, for adults, will be released by New Harbinger in 2020. More resources and information are available at Find her on Twitter @drzoffness. 

Breakout Session Leaders


Trevor Barker has a lived experience with persistent pain. His story of living with debilitating pain and the journey he took in understanding pain then changing his approach using Danger In Me, Safety In Me (DIM/SIM) therapy is inspiring. Trevor has spoken extensively on recovery from trauma and pain and works as a pain coach with Amelio Health. In 2018 he joined Pain Revolution volunteering to support Community Engagement efforts with Pain Revolution. The following 2 years Trevor worked for Pain Revolution undertaking Community Engagement,  speaking at education events and sharing his story of recovery. 

This breakout session will take a deep look at how DIM SIM therapy captures the social and psychological aspects needed to create safety and encourage people with a lived experience of persistent pain to change their response to pain.

Trevor learnt DIM SIM therapy from Dave Butler and adopted it into his life in 2018. He clearly explains how to apply DIM SIM Therapy in this practical breakout session.


Mari Hodges, M.AmSAT, M. AAPTA  - I am a certified Alexander Technique specialist helping people to recover freedom and ease of movement and to reduce pain and stress. I am passionate about helping people discover mind-body awareness, the freedom to not react to stimuli and the possibility of allowing change to harmful habits of posture, movement and thought through a process of self-discovery.

I founded DiscoverEase in Movement where I combine Alexander Technique-based mindful movement and pain education to help people reconceptualize pain, movement, posture and wholeness of self. I also teach dental professionals how to prevent occupational musculoskeletal injury and persistent pain. I am involved in The Poise Project “Alexander Technique and Pain Management, Recovery and Prevention” initiative as the Montana Regional Team Leader.

My interest in pain grew out of my own journey through persistent pain and a fascination for observing my own and others’ recoveries. I delved into the world of Explain Pain while doing my Alexander Technique teacher training and final project on pain and its implications for teachers of the Alexander Technique.

I graduated from the Escuela de Técnica Alexander Buenos Aires in 2014 and was certified by the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique. I am also certified as an Art of Running Instructor to teach the principles of the Alexander Technique applied to running. I am a member of the American Society for Alexander Technique and the Asociación Argentina de Profesores de Técnica Alexander. I hold a BA in sociology from UCLA and am currently working toward my Therapeutic Pain Specialist certificate with Evidence in Motion. In addition to studying pain, my hobbies include dance, teaching dance, violin and running. 

About the Alexander Technique: Alexander Technique is best described as embodied mindfulness. For over a century, Alexander Technique has been well-known in the performing arts world as a means of improving motor performance and self-awareness and for prevention and recovery from injury.

A mind-body technique that applies “non-doing” attention and intention to develop appropriate muscle tone while reducing stress and anxiety, Alexander Technique has only recently begun to be studied and its benefits in reducing pain known to the wider world of rehabilitation.

It is likely that the improvements in the adaptivity and distribution of postural tone, body schema and inhibitory control combined with gradual changes in self-organization and movement underpin many of the benefits of the Alexander Technique, including reductions in pain.


Laura Rathbone van Meurs is a clinical specialist physiotherapist working in the field of persistent and complex pain.  She gained her MSc in Advanced Neuromusculoskeletal Physiotherapy from Kings College London in 2015 where she was heavily influenced by the teaching of Prof Mick Thacker who introduced her the wider philosophical discussion around human experience and pain.  She has held multiple Physiotherapy roles in London within 1st and 3rd contact environments working in clinics, GP practices, hospitals and specialist programmes.  She worked as part of the multi-disciplinary team delivering the Input Pain Management programme at St Thomas’ Hospital under the management of Prof. Lance McCracken.  Here she gained an in-depth working model of ACT and became skilled in session development for groups and individual work.  

Laura is dedicated to the understanding and exploration of pain and pain science.  She co-hosts Le Pub Scientifique in Amsterdam and guest lectures on the topic of pain and incorporating psychological frameworks into practice.  Her current interest is in exploring philosophical models and the role they play in the development of health models and the understanding of the human experience of pain. 

Laura is heavily influenced by the exciting and original work of Prof Mick Thacker, Ass. Prof Julian Kiverstein and Prof Lance McCracken.

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