Specialising in Pain Management, Anxiety, Depression and Relationships

Pain Psychology

"One in five Australians will suffer chronic pain in their lifetime" (National Pain Summit March 2010)

Here at Wisdom Health we have award winning pain researchers who specialise in treatment programmes that are rated by participants to be highly effective in helping manage pain and regain quality of life. All our psychologists have a special interest in pain management and do regular professional development in this area. The founder of Wisdom Health, Dr Rob Schütze, is an academic in the field of pain science at Curtin University.

Our speciality is helping people with chronic pain

For most of us the pain we have experienced is transient, it heals within a certain time and we move on with our lives.

For those who experience chronic pain - pain that persists beyond usual healing times or daily pain for at least 3 months in a 6-month period, the experience of pain extends on and on, often with seemingly no end in sight.

Chronic pain is Australia's third most costly health problem. It is estimated to cost around $34.3 billion each year and is often considered a disease in its own right. Traditional medical treatments for chronic pain, such as opioid pharmacotherapy, surgery and regional anaesthesia are costly, are often effective, however they pose significant side-effect risks often have limited efficacy without multidisciplinary care.

Pain relief - whole person treatment programmes get results

Evidence shows that by taking a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of pain, significant relief and improvements to people's lives can be achieved in a relatively short time frame.

This means looking at pain in a multi dimensional way, including its physicality, emotional aspects, the way we think about pain, and how we interact with people in respect to our pain.

Aspects of treatment may involve the following:

  • To help with the emotional aspects of pain – training in mindfulness meditation, coping skills, relaxation skills

  • To help with unhelpful thoughts about pain – typically using a Cognitive Therapy approach and/or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

  • To help the physical pain – movement and exercise designed by a physiotherapist

  • To help with our relationships with others– communication skills and stress management skills

Common aspects of chronic pain:

  • Significant daily pain for at least 3 months, within a 6 month period

  • Ongoing pain from an acute injury that has not healed within usual time frames

  • The pain may feel like shooting, burning, tingling, electric shock like if there is a neuropathic component

  • Difficulty sleeping from the pain

  • Changes in mood, including a sense of helplessness

  • Loss of enjoyment in usual activities

  • Requiring higher levels of pain medication to cope with daily activities

  • The pain you have intensifies in periods of stress

  • Your ability to study or work is affected to the extend you need have considerable time off

  • Fatigue

  • Lowered immune system


Common types of chronic pain

The most common types of chronic pain in Australia include:

  • Back pain

  • Neck pain

  • Headaches

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Arthritis

  • Nerve pain


What's the difference between acute and chronic pain?

Acute pain is something we have all experienced. We hurt ourselves, we heal and the pain goes away. Acute pain is often associated with tissue damage in the body, which might be evident in an XRAY or scan.

Chronic pain mainly differs to acute pain in terms of the duration of the pain experience. The pain itself may range from mild to severe. By its definition, the minimum time is every day for 3 months in a six month period. For many the reality is years of pain. Most forms of chronic pain are not closely associated with an underlying injury or area of tissue damage. An initial injury that triggered an acute pain episode may actual have healed, however due to changes in the nervous system the pain persists. This is why chronic pain is sometimes thought of as a faulty alarm system, which doesn't make the pain any less real, but significantly changes how the pain is best managed. Quite often psychological factors like anxiety, stress and depression can be significant drivers of pain at this stage, which is why psychological therapy can be helpful.

I'm currently taking various pain killing medications? Do I have to come off these when I go through one of your treatment programmes?

The decision is yours and best discussed with your GP or medical specialist as medications are outside our realm of speciality. If you are thinking of coming off medication it's crucial to discuss with your medical caregiver as some side effects can be experienced from suddenly ceasing medication. Often people continue their medication in conjunction with the programmes on offer.


"About 10 % of Australians will be affected by anxiety disorders at some point in their life." (1997 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing)

There are some situations – such as an exam, job interview, sports carnival, meeting a new group of people for the first time – in which it's quite natural to experience a certain level of anxiety. For most of us the anxiety related to these events quickly disappears once the event ends.

For one in ten Australians the constant experience of anxiety affects their mood, the way they think and feel about things, their behaviour, ability to function, and has a range of physical symptoms that all impact negatively on overall quality of life, relationships, work, sleep and physical health.

If you recognise some of the following symptoms in yourself, we recommend you speak to one of our psychologists who specialise in the treatment of anxiety. The psychological treatments and programmes used at Wisdom Health are backed by years of clinical research, providing symptom relief and a route back to greater enjoyment of life.

Symptoms of anxiety:

  • A sense of being apprehensive, panicky, or on alert to danger all the time

  • Having a feeling of impending dread, doom, the sense that 'something bad is going to happen'

  • An increased heart rate

  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilation

  • Physically trembling, shaky

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Muscle tension and soreness.


Help is at hand – treatment is highly effective

Although the symptoms of anxiety can feel overwhelming, once the specific type of anxiety is diagnosed, typically people can start to feel better after a relatively short course of treatment, 6-12 sessions.

Our psychologists specialise in treatment of the following anxiety conditions:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder

  • Panic Disorder

  • Phobias

  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


Everyone experiences ups and downs, fluctuations in their mood. It is normal to feel sad, tired or unmotivated at times. However usually this is transient and passes within a few hours or days.

When these feelings last for several weeks or more and start to get in the way of our normal activities, we might be experiencing an episode of clinical depression. Getting help is really important when this happens.

Common symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling down, sad or hopeless most of the time

  • Struggling to enjoy activities you previously enjoyed

  • Changes in your appetite

  • Struggling to sleep or sleeping much more than usual

  • Feeling tired and unmotivated

  • Having lots of self-critical thoughts that make you feel worthless or guilty

  • Struggling to concentrate, remember things or make decisions

  • Thinking about suicide repeatedly

If you are struggling to not act on thoughts about suicide then it important to seek help right away. If you aren't able to get a Psychologist appointment today, call a crisis line like Lifeline (131114) or Crisis Care (08 9223 1111). Otherwise see your GP today or go to a hospital Emergency Department.

The good news is that with the right help you can overcome depression or learn how to live a meaningful and fulfilling life while managing your depression. Medications, such as anti-depressants, can form a useful part of your management plan, although for mild to moderate depression they may not be indicated.

There are several kinds of psychological therapy that have good evidence for treating depression. There is most evidence for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) butAcceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and Behavioural Activation (BA) also have good evidence.

One of the challenges with depression is staying well once you've overcome an episode. Relapse is quite common, which is why having a good skills-based maintenance plan is important. Nowadays the treatment that has best evidence for preventing depressive relapse is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). This uses meditation and behavioural skills to short-circuit the endless unhelpful thinking (rumination) that often makes depressive relapse take hold.

Health Problems

Dealing with ill health is something every person confronts at some point in their life. For those of us who live with ongoing (or chronic) health problems, life can seem like an endless merry-go-round of tests, appointments, pills, medical procedures and worry. It's not surprising that mental health issues like depression and anxiety are commonly co-morbid with chronic health problems. What's more, research is increasingly articulating how strong the mind-body connection is so that how we think, feel and act often influences the medical symptoms we lives with.


Wisdom Health specialises in helping people cope with chronic health problems. Aside from chronic pain, we have helped many people develop their individual strengths to flourish amidst the challenges of: traumatic brain injury, cancer, stroke, developmental disabilities, addiction, metabolic diseases and gastrointestinal diseases. Our psychologists have extensive experience working in hospitals and other multidisciplinary treatment centres, and can coordinate with your other health professionals to help you achieve the best physical and emotional health outcomes.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder is when a person experiences persistent, unwanted and intrusive thoughts or images, called obsessions and must perform certain behaviours, called compulsions, to neutralise the anxiety or distress caused by these obsessions. The relief from the compulsive acts is only short term, so constant repetition is required which creates a seemingly never ending cycle. Performing constant rituals can become extremely time consuming and debilitating, consuming a person's life and causing severe distress.

OCD affects children, adolescents and adults. Whilst adults generally have some insight into their condition, children and adolescents may have limited understanding and the earlier the intervention the better. 

Some common obsessions include:

  • Fear of contamination by germs, dirt or toxins.  

  • Fear of harming someone even though you don't want to , or the fear that you might act on an unwanted impulse.

  • Fear of being responsible for things going wrong in some way.

  • Intrusive sexual images, thoughts or impulses

  • Religious obsessions

Some common compulsions include:

  • Washing or cleaning exceessively

  • Counting or checking things over and over

  • Repeating particular behaviours or routines

  • Saying particular words, mantras or prayers repeatedly

  • Systematically avoiding particular objects, places, or people

The most effective way to overcome OCD is to slowly get used to the things that distress you without using your usual rituals. We can this Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). The word exposure often sounds scary but the important thing is that this exposure is slow and controlled by the client. We always break down the feared object into small steps to create what's called  a graded hierarchy. Our experience is that people find exposure really empowering because it gives them a systematic way to tackle a fear. Along the way, we also learn how to relate to unwanted internal experiences, like intrusive thoughts, more helpfully and only direct our energy towards areas that are meaningful to us.

Relationship Stress

Humans are social animals and we all seek connection and closeness with others. For most people, relationships are the most central and meaningful aspects of their lives. Therefore learning how to establish, nurture and repair relationships is a central part of living a healthy emotional life.

Conflict is a normal part of any relationship, but too much conflict can damage our relationships, and have negative impacts on our individual mental and physical health.


Relationship counselling at Wisdom Health focuses on understanding the deeper origins of chronic conflict and then practising new ways of dealing with stress that foster resilience rather than resentment. Often this involves seeing how a parter's hurtful behaviour might be their attempt at protecting themselves from feeling hurt and vulnerable themselves. Learning how to communicate honestly and sensitively is a core skills that can be practised in the unique context that couples' therapy allows. We help each couple develop their own set of healthy relationship habits that keep the relationship nurturing each individual while also supporting the families and communities they are embedded within.