Psychotherapy services at pain center help patients enjoy better quality of life


Photo from left: Julie Wu, LCSW, Sharon Sikand, PA, F. Michael Ferrante, MD, Eric Hsu, MD, Jakun Ing, MD, and Lily Nguyen, PA-C

Story highlights

  • Pain psychology uses cognitive behavioral therapy to change pain perceptions.
  • Center offers various therapies to help patients cope with back, neck and joint pain, post-surgical pain and nerve pain.
  • Services help to reduce or eliminate the need for addictive pain medications.

If you’re among the approximately 100 million Americans who deal with chronic pain, the UCLA Comprehensive Pain Center in Santa Monica can help. Center specialists offer a multidisciplinary approach to pain management.

“We offer therapies to improve the overall health and quality of life of people who have short-term and chronic pain, while reducing or eliminating the need for opioids and other highly addictive pain medications,” says F. Michael Ferrante, MD, director, UCLA Comprehensive Pain Center. The center is part of the UCLA Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine.

Last year, the center began offering a specialty discipline called pain psychology. “Pain is a sensation triggered within your brain,” says Julie Wu, LCSW, therapist and pain psychology specialist. “Pain psychology doesn’t diminish this sensation. Instead, it gives you insight into why you feel a certain way about the pain and helps you change how you think about and respond to it.”

Wu uses various psychotherapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and the trauma-focused “Seeking Safety” approach to help patients learn coping skills and lifestyle modifications that can help them live life more fully despite their pain. Employees interested in pain psychology services can ask their doctors for a referral to the center. Employee health care insurance plans cover these services, but always confirm with the insurer first.

The center also has clinic locations in Burbank, Santa Clarita, Encino, Thousand Oaks, Torrance and Westwood.

To learn more about the UCLA Comprehensive Pain Center, visit