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Deborah Barrett, PhD, MSW, LCSW is a clinical associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a psychotherapist in private practice. She has published self-help articles on fibromyalgia and other chronic pains as well as scholarly papers on health and illness, global culture, and public policy.


Note from the Author

I came to the topic of this book through my own struggles with pain. I developed severe pain, fairly suddenly, in my late 20s, after having enjoyed many years unencumbered by any health problems beyond an occasional cold or minor injury. Once my pain began, however, it seemed relentless. Even after I was diagnosed and tried various treatments, the pain persisted. The pain seemed to worsen out of the blue, which made my life unpredictable and frightening. But every so often I would experience a short reprieve.

At that time, I was completing my doctorate in sociology at Stanford University. After months of terrible frustration over my unexplained ups and downs, I decided to apply my social science skills to uncover the reasons for these variations. By recording how I felt and whatever activities varied that day, I detected patterns and could test which ones made me better or worse. This approach turned my experience around.

I improved enough to finish my Ph.D. and launch my career as a sociologist. At the same time, I began writing self-help articles for people with chronic pain. I found this work and the response I received to be satisfying. In my mid-30s, with a growing family, I decided to return to school for training in clinical social work so that I could work more directly with people who were suffering. My work as a psychotherapist has added to my thinking about ways to improve life with pain--and beyond pain.

Paintracking is the book I wish someone had handed me when I found myself in mysterious, debilitating pain. It draws from my professional experience and transformation as well as the empathy that comes from life in the pain trenches. I hope that its lessons, culled from medical, psychotherapeutic, and social scientific approaches, along with a dose of "hard knocks," will facilitate your own healing journey.