The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type




Degree Name

Rehabilitation Counseling: M.S.


Community Psychology, Counseling and Family Therapy


School of Health and Human Services

First Advisor

Amy Knopf

Second Advisor

Susan Dowds

Third Advisor

Bradley Kuhlman

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

chronic pain; social support; peer-led; support groups; pain management; grounded theory; peer-led support groups; chronic pain support groups; peer-led chronic pain support group; quality of life; financial impacts of chronic pain


Chronic pain is a current public health problem that significantly impacts the United States, including the disproportionate impact on specific communities, quality of life, and the impact on the U.S. economy (Institute of Medicine et al., 2011). Many chronic pain management techniques are used in modern pain management therapies; however, cost, ability, and opportunity can impact the effectiveness of these techniques. Social support documented as an efficacious pain management technique. However, peer-led chronic pain support groups are under-researched. Through a qualitative grounded theory approach, this research used semi-structured interviews to investigate the relationship between peer-led chronic pain support group membership and chronic pain management. In addition, this study investigated the relationship between membership of peer-led chronic pain support groups and if there is a connection to higher success in managing chronic pain while lessening the impact on quality of life and the fiscal impact.

The participants in the study identified the significant value that membership in a peer-led chronic pain support group had on the management of their chronic pain. The participants identified six themes while discussing the relationship between their membership in a peer-led support group and their chronic pain management: peer group support, the dichotomy of quality-of-life, self-concept, impacts of healthcare, family and communal relationships, and economic impact. The generated theory states that peer-led chronic pain support groups are an effective method of managing chronic pain due to their positive impact on quality of life and self-concept while relieving some of the financial burdens of chronic pain.



First, I would like to acknowledge and thank the 5 participants in my study who volunteered their time, energy, and passion for this research. Without them, this research would not be possible. I would also like to thank my committee members, Dr. Susan Dowds and Dr. Brad Kuhlman, for their valuable feedback and support during this research. A huge thank you to Dr. Amy Hebert Knopf, the chairperson on my committee and my advisor, for her time, dedication, and unwavering belief in me and my vision for this research. She has taught me so much about becoming a better counselor and researcher, and I am so grateful for her encouraging me to achieve excellence.

Additionally, I would like to thank: my husband, Andrew, for his staunch support in my "big project" and for always being there for the highs and lows, to my mom for making sure that I always had food in my refrigerator and cheerleader I could always call, and to my dad for his steadfast support in all aspects of the last two years. Finally, a special thanks to my Grandma Bea for a supportive shoulder every Thursday night, Sarah Gorski for her unwavering positivity and late-night phone calls, and Jonathan Tigner for commiserating about each of our thesis work and his knowledge of Microsoft Excel. Thank you all for the time, dedication, and support in fostering my growth mentally, professionally, and academically.



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