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Dialectic Approach to Distress: How to Translate & Apply What We Know About Emotional Suffering to Chronic Physical Pain, with Deborah Barrett, PhD, LCSW


March 17 , 2017 at the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Auditorium of the UNC School of Social Work, Chapel Hill, NC  || printable handouts

When:  Friday March 17, 2017 from 9:00 to 4:30 with 1 hour catered lunch and 2 fifteen minute breaks

WhereUNC School of Social Work Auditorium, 325 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill, NC   Directions and parking

Continuing Education: 6 hours

Fees:  General Admission: $160;  SSW disount: $110

            Early Bird discount available before February 17th: General $110; SSW discount: $60
*SSW Discount available for current UNC-CH School of Social Work students, faculty, field instructors, and task supervisors.

**Additional $6 charge for psychologists who would like to receive Category A credit

Live Streaming: Can’t make it in person? Participate to live stream. (All who register for live streaming will receive an email with directions on how to join/log-in  the Thursday before lecture.)

Registration: Online pre-registration  (You may pre-register up until the day before the program.).

Description:  As a community, we are in need of practitioners who can work effectively with people suffering with chronic physical pain. This is especially pressing given the changes in prescription practices that are currently taking place around chronic pain management. This workshop will provide a framework and tools to translate what you may already be doing to treat emotional pain to work more effectively with individuals suffering with physical distress. In this workshop, Debbie will elaborate on the concept, experience, and treatment of “distress,” and how it encompasses physical and emotional suffering. She will draw from current brain research on pain and from third wave cognitive-behavioral therapies–dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and other mindfulness-based approaches–to provide a rationale for what works and a roadmap for applying this to chronic pain in particular, whatever its root cause. This workshop will include a mix of didactic, experiential exercises, and case examples.


Deborah  (Debbie) Barrett, PhD, LCSW is a Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Social Work and the Department of Medicine in Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She founded the UNC Clinical Lecture Series in the School of Social Work in 2005, and Clinical Lecture Institutes in 2014, to enhance training opportunities for MSW students along with faculty and area practitioners. She is committed to increasing access to mental healthcare services, and helped found the Pro Bono Counseling Network, now housed at Freedom House, and continues to serve on its advisory board. Between 2006 and 20016, she co-facilitated two weekly low-fee DBT groups in private practice, and currently facilitates dialectical pain management groups at UNC Psychiatry outpatient practice, where she also works with individuals. She is passionate about improving life for individuals with chronic pain, and thus provides workshops whenever asked, and penned a self-help book on pain management.



  • 8:30-9:00 – registration, sign-in, coffee
  • 9:00- 10:15 –  Dialectic approach to pain management; pain gate as science and metaphor
  • 10:15 – 10:30 – break
  • 10:30 – 12:00 –  Distress as its own concept; brain science applied to clinical practice
  • 12:00-1:00 – lunch by Vimala’s CurryBlossom Cafe
  • 1:00 – 2:30 –  Adapting tools from 3rd wave behavioral approaches
  • 2:30 – 2:45 – break
  • 2:45 – 4:00 – Adapting tools from 3rd wave behavioral approaches, cont.
  • 4:00-4:30 – Further application and conclusion


Upon completion of this workshop, participants should increase their ability to effectively care for clients by being able to:

  • Describe concept of distress and its relevance in working effectively with both emotional and physical suffering
  • Explain the pain gate control theory and at least one way it applies to working with chronic physical pain
  • Explore the role of mindfulness practice as it applies to reducing suffering
  • Practice using at least 3 levels of validation in therapeutic work with individuals with chronic pain
  • Adapt at least 5 DBT skills to therapeutic work with individuals who have chronic pain
  • Understand how to apply at least 1 ACT concept to improving life for individuals with chronic pain

Handouts: All handouts for the lecture are posted on the top of this event’s page.

  • Akerblom, S., Perrin, S., Fischer, M., McCracken, L., (2015). The mediating role of acceptance in multidisciplinary cognitive-behavioral therapy for chronic pain. Journal of Pain, 16(7), 606-615.
  • Barrett, L., & Simmons, W. (2015). Interoceptive predictions in the brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(7), 419-429.
  • Gaillard, A. (2014). Emotional pain, physical pain: Neurobiological mechanisms and treatment. Annales Medico-Psychologiques, 172(2), 104-107.

Information on Continuing Educational Credit:

Contact hours provided for LCSWs and LMFTs 6 hours

CEU: 6 Contact Hours per event

6 Contact Hours from UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work.

6 Contact Hours NBCC (provider #6642) The UNC School of Social Work is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEPTM) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. The ACEP solely is responsible for all aspects of the program.  

Each clinical lecture is co-sponsored by the North Carolina Psychological Association and the UNC School of Social Work. The North Carolina Psychological Association is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The North Carolina Psychological Association maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Each workshop is offered for 6 Hours of continuing education credit.

No partial credit will be given. Participants must attend the entire program in order to receive credit.

Transportation/ DirectionsThe most reliable place to park is in the UNC Hospital lot on Manning Drive. Parking fee is $1.50/ hour. The Carolina Inn next door on Pittsboro has space-available pay parking for a flat fee of $20/day. There are also numerous “park & ride” locations in Chapel Hill, with bus service to (or near) the School of Social Work. Directions.

ADA Statement: If you require any of the auxiliary aids or services identified in the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to participate in this program, please call us at 919-962-6540 no later than ten business days before the program.

Attendance Policy: – To receive credit, you must be present for the entire session, and you must sign the sign-in and sign-out sheets (for psychologists). No partial credit will be given. No credit will be given to participants who are more than 15 minutes late at the beginning of any session. No credit will be given to participants who leave before the close of a session. 

Payment and refund policies A refund of 60% of the paid registration fee will be available when cancellation request is received  at least 48 hours prior to the program date. You may send a substitute in your place.

Additional Questions? Contact Deborah Barrett, PhD, LCSW at / 919-843-5818 or Carol Ann Hincy at / 919-962-6540.

Register Here


ONYEN LOG IN is ONLY for UNC-CH SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK current students, staff and faculty.


CAROL ANN HINCY 919-962-6540 or