Psychosocial Pain Management Moderation: The Limit, Activate, and Enhance Model

There is a growing emphasis in the pain literature on understanding the following second-order research questions: Why do psychosocial pain treatments work? For whom do various treatments work? This critical review summarizes research that addresses the latter question and proposes a moderation model to help guide future research. A theoretical moderation framework for matching individuals to specific psychosocial pain interventions has been lacking. However, several such frameworks have been proposed in the broad psychotherapy and implementation science literature. Drawing on these theories and adapting them specifically for psychosocial pain treatment, here we propose a Limit, Activate, and Enhance model of pain treatment moderation. This model is unique in that it includes algorithms not only for matching treatments on the basis of patient weaknesses but also for directing patients to interventions that build on their strengths. Critically, this model provides a basis for specific a priori hypothesis generation, and a selection of the possible hypotheses drawn from the model are proposed and discussed. Future research considerations are presented that could refine and expand the model based on theoretically driven empirical evidence.

The Limit, Activate, and Enhance model presented here is a theoretically derived framework that provides an a priori basis for hypothesis generation regarding psychosocial pain treatment moderators. The model will advance moderation research via its unique focus on matching patients to specific treatments that 1) limit maladaptive responses, 2) activate adaptive responses, and 3) enhance treatment outcomes based on patient strengths and resources.