Psychologists specializing in pain management focus on assisting individuals suffering from the consequences of an injury or illness, in dealing with residual pain, and in effecting life-style changes necessitated by their condition. Rather than concentrating on the deficiencies and limitations of an injury or illness and a (possibly elusive) cure, a client will be encouraged to explore individual strengths and assets that might facilitate the rehabilitation process. Treatment may include exploration of personal resources useful in the past (e.g. an immigrant's experience of adjustment to a new country), and/or offer an opportunity to learn and practice new skills and strategies to make adjustment to a dramatically changed situation less difficult.
Individuals suffering from the consequences of an injury or serious illness may experience a wide range of emotional difficulties, but these psychological problems are often secondary to their physical condition rather than an expression of a pervasive mental disorder. The goal of treatment is to assist "normal" or "psychologically healthy" individuals deal with and adjust to, an "abnormal" situation; treatment resources are drawn from a vast variety of research findings in the area of human learning and development.