Making Sense of Pain: Free program for people who experience inequities in health care

OverviewPerson speaking to group

Chronic pain frequently exists in conjunction with other conditions such as chronic diseases, mental health issues, and substance use health concerns. In addition, people living with chronic pain may be disproportionately impacted by trauma, violence, poverty, homelessness, and language and cultural barriers, all of which can affect/limit access to safe and equitable health care. 

People living with pain in marginalized conditions face barriers to accessing multi-disciplinary programs that provide the supports required to address pain. Offering health care services that are accessible, non-stigmatizing, trauma and violence-informed and patient-centred is not only best practice, but also provides people who experience marginalization with equal opportunities to learn more about managing pain and improving wellbeing. 

About the program

Making Sense of Pain is a self-management program designed for people with pain who experience marginalization and face barriers to accessing care.  

The Making Sense of Pain program is held over a span of nine to ten weeks and is led by a trained facilitator. Facilitators provide participants with opportunities to learn about pain, the various factors that can cause or make pain worse, and simple strategies that can help participants better manage pain in everyday life. Attendance at all sessions is encouraged, but not required. Participants may also drop in. Accessibility is a key component of Making Sense of Pain: food/drinks are provided and travel and childcare subsidies, along with ASL interpretation, are available by request. 

Pain BC would like to partner with interested health authorities, medical clinics, Divisions, community groups, Indigenous communities, addictions services, or pain support groups to hold these class series in locations where there is an established need. If you are interested in offering this class series in your area, please read below for more detail on becoming a site. 


By participating in this nine-to-ten-week program, we intend for participants to:

  • Learn about pain and its effects on emotional, physical and spiritual health.
  • Understand how the brain and body respond before, during, and after painful events.
  • Gain skills and strategies to manage pain. 
  • Increase their understanding and/or acceptance of their pain. 
  • Find useful community resources, including Pain BC resources.
  • Feel less alone with their pain. 

Class structure and topics

Each class is 2 hours long with 1.5 hours dedicated to group work, and 30 minutes for social time. The Making Sense of Pain curriculum is designed to be flexible, and we encourage facilitators to adapt the content to the needs of their group. 

Topics (can be presented in any order): 

  • Session 1: Introductions and the biopsychosocial model of pain 
  • Session 2: Pain science 
  • Session 3: Stress & stress management 
  • Session 4: Movement 
  • Session 5: Sleep and mood 
  • Session 6: Social support and communication 
  • Session 7: Nutrition 
  • Session 8: Grief & loss  
  • Session 9: Self-talk & self-compassion 
  • Session 10: Wrap-up (Optional) 

Role of the site

The site will be responsible for:

  • Providing a comfortable meeting space for the group (if in person)
  • Recruiting facilitators (Pain BC will fund one per group)
  • Recruiting peers (for the Making Sense of Pain for Indigenous Peoples class series only – Pain BC will fund 1 per group)
  • Ensuring facilitators and peers attend Pain BC facilitator training 
  • Recruiting participants
  • Purchasing refreshments or grocery gift cards for each session (funding provided by Pain BC)
  • Processing and reimbursing travel expenses to participants (funding provided by Pain BC)
  • Organizing and facilitating weekly class session (each session is 2 hours long)
  • Participating in the evaluation of the program
  • Communicating the program’s status at regular intervals to the Pain BC team

Role of Pain BC

Pain BC will be responsible for providing the site with the following resources:

  • The program curriculum
  • Training for facilitators
  • Wages for the professional and peer facilitators that will cover their training, the sessions and 2 hours for de-brief/evaluation
  • Funds for refreshments for each session
  • Funds toward travel/childcare subsidies for participants
  • Promotional material used to recruit participants to the group
  • Evaluation tools and process

Background and training requirements for facilitators 

Facilitators for the Making Sense of Pain program can be from a wide variety of clinical health care backgrounds such as nursing, social work, psychology, counselling, occupational therapy, mental health, and addiction. 

Additionally, it is desirable for facilitators to:

  • Be experienced in providing trauma and violence informed care
  • Have experience with group facilitation
  • Possess a deep understanding of the needs, challenges and strengths of the target patient population
  • Have an interest in chronic pain

Pain BC will provide training in the program curriculum and provide resources to help facilitators understand basic assessment and treatment approaches to chronic pain.

The Making Sense of Pain for Indigenous Peoples class series is facilitated by an Elder and a peer. Ideally, the peer will have some knowledge of or background in health care, teaching, and/or facilitation, as well as a keen interest in chronic pain.  

Who do I contact to discuss becoming a site?

For more information on setting up a site, please complete our site application form here:  

Apply now

Funding for this program is provided by the Vancouver Foundation and the Government of B.C.