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Comfort Ability Program Helps Kids Manage Chronic Pain

August 23, 2022

Children and adolescents with chronic pain who are between 10 and 17 years of age can learn how to better manage their pain and improve functioning through the Comfort Ability Program at the Yale Child Study Center (YCSC). Interactive workshops are offered each month for kids and their parents or caregivers, including evidence-based non-pharmacological strategies for pain management. There is a one-time $300 fee for the workshop series, which includes six tele-health sessions. Limited scholarship slots are also available, pending income eligibility.

Directed by YCSC Assistant Professor and Pediatric Psychologist Areti Vassilopoulos, PhD, Comfort Ability is an international program that was developed at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2011. Workshops are now available in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The goal of the program is to optimize children’s level of comfort and increase their ability to function in everyday activities and responsibilities. Children and their parents or guardians meet in separate group sessions, and families must commit to both session types.

“Pain is invisible, and that makes everything feel that much more isolating for kids with chronic pain and their families,” commented Vassilopoulos. “Having a space for kids/teens and parents to connect with others that truly know what they’re experiencing, all while learning proven-to-work skills together, is incredible. It is always my favorite part of each Comfort Ability Workshop.”

The workshop for kids and teens provides a safe and comfortable space to connect with others who understand what it’s like to live with ongoing pain. Together, they learn about pain science, psychology tools to control pain, and mind-body skills to boost comfort. Participants also explore how to manage pain-related stress such as isolation from friends, school problems, lack of sleep, and missing out on activities, as well as how to cope with feeling anxious or sad. At the end of the workshop, kids develop their own Comfort Ability plan to guide their coping and long-term recovery.

Pain is invisible, and that makes everything feel that much more isolating for kids with chronic pain and their families.

Areti Vassilopoulos, PhD

The parent/caregiver workshop focuses on skills that help to boost a child’s sense of comfort and well-being. Adults in this group learn about pain science and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). They explore new ways to respond to a child’s pain, focus on how to improve day-to-day activities at home and school, and create a specific plan that will help to boost comfort for the child. The group also provides an opportunity to connect with other parents and caregivers in supportive ways.

Workshops are now held virtually, in a 6-session series over the course of two weeks, with 4 youth sessions and 2 parent sessions scheduled in advance during the same month. Workshop dates available on the program webpage for October 2022, December 2022, and February 2023.

Submitted by Crista Marchesseault on August 23, 2022