Making Sense of Pain: Free 8 week class series 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, poor mental health, and substance use. In addition, people living with chronic pain may be disproportionately impacted by trauma, violence, poverty, homelessness, and language and cultural barriers, all of which affect their ability to access 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-informed and patient-centred is not only good practice, but also provides vulnerable populations with equal opportunities to learn more about managing pain and improving wellbeing.

About the class series

Making Sense of Pain is a self-management class series designed for people with pain who also live in marginalized conditions and face barriers to accessing care. 

The Making Sense of Pain class series are held over a span of eight weeks and are 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. Participant attendance is further encouraged by providing refreshments and reimbursement for travel costs.

Pain BC would like to partner with interested health authorities, medical clinics, Divisions, community groups, First Nations, 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 eight-week class series, 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
  • Reduce the shame, blame, stigma, or isolation they may feel
  • Make sense of where they are in their relationship with pain
  • Learn skills and strategies they can do on their own to help process, reduce and manage pain
  • Recognize their resilience and build on their strengths to help cope with pain and its symptoms
  • Be more equipped to advance along the healing path
  • Find helpful community resources
  • Build supportive connections

Class structure and topics

The Making Sense of Pain class series is available in two formats: Making Sense of Pain and Making Sense of Pain for Indigenous Peoples. The Making Sense of Pain for Indigenous Peoples class series is available for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit groups and is led by an Elder, with teaching and facilitation support provided by a peer. Clinical staff may also have a role to play – their involvement will be determined by each site. The focus is on delivering the core curriculum content on pain self-management within a culturally relevant and safe context.

Each class is 2 hours long with 1.5 hours dedicated to group work, and 30 minutes for social time.

  • Week 1: Introductions and getting to know one another
  • Week 2: Pain science and setting goals
  • Week 3: Understanding and managing stress
  • Week 4: Moving with pain and managing energy levels
  • Week 5: Sleep and mood
  • Week 6: Social support and communication
  • Week 7: Eating right when you have pain (nutrition)
  • Week 8: Grief, loss, self-compassion, hope and optimism

Role of the site

The site will be responsible for:

  • Providing a comfortable meeting space for the group
  • 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 (provided by Zoom video conference)
  • Recruiting participants
  • Purchasing refreshments 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 transit reimbursement for participants
  • Promotional material used to recruit participants to the group
  • Evaluation tools

Background and training requirements for facilitators 

Facilitators for the Making Sense of Pain class series 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, contact the Pain BC education team at


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