Pain Coaching is a Thing. Could You Benefit or Become a Coach Yourself?

After a near-fatal accident left her in chronic pain, Becky Curtis turned her energy to helping others. 

After a near-fatal accident left her in chronic pain, Becky Curtis turned her energy to helping others. She launched Take Courage Coaching, which has trained more than 300 Chronic Pain Management Coaches and helped nearly 600 people get back to their lives. PPM Editor Angie Drakulich talked to her about motivation and commitment.

PPM: How did you fall into pain coaching?

Becky: In the summer of 2005, I was in a violent rollover car accident in Montana’s remote Big Hole Valley. It nearly took my life, but the final outcome was a C4 spinal cord injury. After the fight to stay alive and months of recovery from physical injuries, I began suffering excruciating, burning nerve pain. As the chronic central pain reached its peak two years later, I faced the hopelessness of living the rest of my life with constant, centralized nerve (or neuropathic) pain.  Opioids brought me little relief and made coping more difficult.

I went through a pain program where I learned that pain was an experience I could improve by taking an active role and employing several evidence-based modalities. I continued to research pain and collaborate with my medical specialists. But I recognized a piece that was missing for most people in pain: ongoing support and learning how to personally manage pain. So I developed a program in 2009—Take Courage Coaching™(TCC)—to help people in pain understand the science of pain and implement the skills I use today.

PPM: For someone who has never heard of pain coaching, how would you describe it? How does it differ from the common practice of life or career coaching?

Becky: Chronic pain is a complex issue and we know that there are many layers to the pain experience. The coaches at TCC have been trained specifically to understand the complexity of pain. In fact, many of our coaches live with chronic pain of their own and have learned to thrive in spite of it.

For starters, pain coaching offers a collaborative approach. Our coaches do not seek to give advice or come up with solutions for challenges their client may be facing. Rather, a pain coach will strive to partner with the individual in exploring new ways to achieve neuroplastic changes (read more about brain plasticity and pain) and improve the mind body experience with pain. In this way, individuals are able to take ownership and plan their own journey and destination based on the direction of their goals and life vision. It is this team-like approach to a complex problem that allows the individual to find purpose and meaning in life at their own pace and in their own way.

Becky Curtis

PPM: What kind of time commitment is needed to participate in a pain coaching program?

Becky: Our program runs for an entire year. We know that lasting changes don’t happen overnight. Our aim with each individual is to give them the ample time to make the necessary changes to improve their life. Many of the evidence-based principles that we introduce require consistent effort over the course of many weeks and months before tangible results are seen. It takes a real commitment from those taking the program, and likewise, we also feel it is necessary for us to commit to them long term. Through this approach, lasting, lifelong results can take shape.

PPM: Is it possible to become certified in pain coaching?

Becky: It is! Our coach school, TCCU, is an approved training program of the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). A 5-month course prepares coaches for the NBHWC exam. We also provide a 12-week Advanced Training course. Both programs specialize in training coaches in Motivational Interviewing and giving them the skills necessary to work one-on-one and in groups with people who live with chronic pain. Graduates of Advanced Training earn a Chronic Pain Management Coach (CPMC) designation.

PPM: Motivational Interviewing is becoming quite popular in the pain care space. What’s your take on how it improves patient-provider relationships?

Becky: Motivational interviewing is a unique skill that reduces the potential for conflict between patient and provider. It empowers the patient to take ownership and make changes that are meaningful to them. This allows the doctor or provider to fulfill a collaborative role in the patient’s treatment.

Take Courage Coaching was founded in 2009 in Montana and is now headquartered in Sandy, Utah. Training and coaching are conducted via phone and the web platforms so people can participate from any location.

Updated on: 02/13/20
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