Advances in Evidence-Based Mental Health Care

by Dr. Steven Mee

Part 2: The MBPPAS - a useful tool for measuring and understanding psychological pain.

Previously, we introduced the concept of psychological pain and detailed some of the  evidence supporting its role in depression-related suicidal thinking. Much of this information has been developed from efforts by our research team at AIP in collaboration with the VA Long Beach Hospital and UC Irvine. Before we can talk more about why psychological pain is important in the development and treatment of a number of common mental health conditions, we need to more thoroughly introduce the instrument that our team developed to rapidly measure it, the Mee-Bunney Psychological Pain Assessment Scale (MBP, Copyright S. Mee, 2011).

Research and conceptual development of the MBP began in 2003 and initial testing of an early  version was conducted in 2005-2007. In its final form, assembled and published in 2011, the instrument presents as a short 10-item self-report scale that provides an accurate indication of the intensity of a person’s psychological pain level. We are not aware of any other mental health treatment facility that is employing the routine measurement of psychological pain in assessing and treating mental illness. Why is it important to measure such pain at all? Our research indicates that:

  1. High levels of psychological pain may be an early indicator of depression or substance dependence.
  2. Very high levels of psychological pain may indicate suicidal thinking even when some are not willing to admit having these thoughts.
  3. Psychological pain differs from physical pain and our instrument can help doctors decide when a person is suffering high psychological pain even in the presence of long term physical pain.

Although these are important findings, the mechanism of how psychological pain is produced, how it varies in relation to stress, loss, rejection, etc. is not well understood. Indeed, the field of study is so new that there are really many more questions than answers! Be assured, though that as pioneers in the study of how psychological pain influences depression (Mee, et al, 2006, 2011), anxiety substance addiction, and much more our doctors are poised to move forward toward more answers. Finally, someday we hope to have safe and effective methods to both measure and treat psychological pain.

Utilizing these insights, Dr. Mee directly incorporates psychological pain detection and reduction concepts in psychotherapy to address anxiety, anger, depression, substance abuse and other important sometimes life-altering symptoms.

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