Sean Mackey, MD, PhD
Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for people with chronic pain and chronic illness. It shows improvements similar to or greater than most medical treatments! It can help individuals better manage their pain and improve their quality of life. Several types of psychotherapy may be helpful for individuals with chronic pain and chronic illness, including:
It's important to note that psychotherapy should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include medication, physical therapy, and other types of interventions. As such, I will likely get your permission to work with your other treatment providers to ensure we are providing the best possible care to you. It's also important to work with a mental health professional who is experienced in treating chronic pain and chronic illness.
Psychotherapy for chronic pain and illness can get a bad rap, as many people view getting treatment from a psychologist as only "changing your thoughts" or as an acknowledgment that your symptoms are "all in your head." However, both are simplifications of your complex nature, your symptoms, and possible treatment options.
To help people who want to learn more about what psychological treatments are and how they might help, I offer free consultations to new patients before beginning the process. This provides time for you to learn more and ensure I would be a good fit for your treatment team!
I offer a range of research-based, psychological treatments found to help people with their chronic pain and illness. At the current time, the treatments are provided on an individual basis and include:
I occasionally offer several group programs focused on helping you cope with pain, illness, and sleep better. They are listed below. Please contact us to inquire if we are currently offering and/or collecting referrals for any of these groups.
Health is linked to several lifestyle factors including sleep difficulties, lack of physical activity, and smoking. When you typically attempt to make changes to improve your health, you encounter many psychological barriers (e.g., stress, habits, thoughts, etc.) which can make it difficult to change. To help people in this situation, I provide support and coaching which helps them to address the psychological barriers preventing them from changing their health behaviors. This helps you live a healthier life and will help you to better manage your symptoms and stress.
Some people want to understand how psychological factors could impact their health and well-being. They may not require formal treatment in the traditional sense. In such cases, I am available to discuss concerns and provide direction for your own guided self-discovery. This consultation process will likely begin with an evaluation, will be less intense than traditional treatment, and is more guided by you and your goals. It is an opportunity for you to obtain knowledge relevant to my areas of expertise that help guide you to healthier living and a better life.
I provide psychological consultations and education for providers across New York State. The purpose ranges from a better understanding of psychosocial factors impacting a patient's illness to having a better understanding of adherence concerns, as well as having a professional opinion on risk (e.g., for prescribing opioids). I also provide education to providers and medical offices on a variety of psychology-relevant topics. If you would like to discuss a patient or education opportunity, please contact me to set up a time to chat to see if I can help you!
It is a collaborative effort by a psychologist and a patient to use a therapeutic technique in which suggestions for changes and hopefully improvement are given to make changes in your perceptions, sensations, thoughts, mood, and behaviors. It is a state of hyperfocused attention and relaxation in which you are receptive to suggestions for improvement. It is a normal state that you likely have experienced at some point in your life. For instance, if you have ever driven a car from one point to another without notice, you may have entered a hypnotic state without noticing. It has been used for thousands of years to treat various illnesses including chronic pain, acute pain, anxiety, stress, and GI symptoms.
1) It is NOT mind control, and nothing can be done against your will
2) I do NOT set out to have you embarrass yourself (like in the comedy shows).
3) There is no "hypnotizable" personality trait, and up to 90% of people report some benefit from hypnosis.
4) Being hypnotized does not mean you are gullible, gullible, or weak.
5) It is not the same as sleeping or being unconscious.
It is one of many skills that I cover, and it is integrated into your larger treatment plan if you or I believe it could be useful. Research has generally shown it to be more effective if you can integrate it into a more broad treatment.
Hypnosis has been found to help many conditions including chronic pain, pain during surgery, anxiety, stress, and GI symptoms (e.g., nausea). It has also been useful for patients experiencing sleep difficulties such as insomnia.
At this time, we have no way to identify how hypnosis can work for a specific person. Some benefits could include reduced stress, anxiety, and tension. For instance, you might feel calm, peaceful, and/or have an "empty mind" following a hypnotic exercise. You may also find it reduces reduce any pain or other symptoms (such as racing heart rate) you experience. It can also be a tool you use to cope with various life situations in the future.
During your first appointment, I will get to know you. This will include discussing your pain and history. From this information, we will determine if you are likely to benefit from treatment with me.
As you can see, I offer several treatments (and more are coming) that we can tailor to your specific needs and goals. Through discussion, we will agree on what your treatment will look like.
Together, we will complete the agreed-upon treatment. These treatment plans, though, can change as life happens. If we both agree on it, we can change the plans as necessary.
Occasionally, we will discuss how the treatment is going, and you will complete some short questionnaires during treatment. These steps are to ensure treatment is helping you. If not, we can discuss doing a different treatment, adding a component to your treatment, or ending the treatment altogether.
We work together to create a plan for ending treatment and to help you maintain your improvements. My ultimate hope is that you can return to your life and continue to develop strategies for managing your pain.