Innovative approaches to building Pain Management Service capacity in rural and remote locations

Ms Pam Garton1, Ms Rachel Kovacevic2

1Abilita Services Pty Ltd, Darwin, Australia, 2Innovative Rehab, Preston, Australia


Effective pain self-management requires a biopsychosocial approach and is best achieved through interprofessional collaboration. Persistent pain impacts many patients with a variety of conditions. When health practitioners use consistent patient assessment measures, shared case formulation, and targeted self-care education and strategies, delivered via a local, collaborative service model, great health outcomes are achieved!

People in persistent pain often present with a range of psychosocial barriers. Learning to recognise and manage the established risk factors for long-term disability is key to obtaining sustainable progress toward recovery. The first part of this workshop reviews practical tools to guide case formulation, identify pain responses and assist patients to develop self-management skills, aimed at building confidence and increasing function.

The idea of working interprofessionally sounds simple, but is actually quite complex in practice. Successful, inter-professional, allied health service models do exist and share a number of features in common. The second part of this workshop reviews a process for the design and implementation of innovative treatment programs in rural and remote areas, aligned with current literature and informed by practice, including the reality of adapting to local learning and service delivery needs.

The workshop will include group discussion on key aspects of psychosocial risk factors and of interprofessional collaboration. Participants will use case study scenarios to draw out psychosocial risk factors, discuss their potential impact on recovery and plan interprofessional intervention that can realistically be achieved within their own service delivery context.


Pam Garton is an Occupational Therapist passionate about breaking through the barriers that prevent people in pain, from receiving best practice treatment. Pam believes that this can be delivered by practitioners in a remote location just as effectively as city-based multi-disciplinary pain programs.

That’s a bold statement, but she has committed the past 20 years to putting it into practice and developing tools to support others to do the same.  These include a biopsychosocial self-report assessment and a coaching skills program and online training courses to utilize these resources.  Central to the success of the Abilita program is the focus on building client insight, motivation and engagement.  More recently these materials have been converted into an online self-help program for pain sufferers through the ‘Control My Pain Project’.

Pam has seen these resources fully optimised, when practitioners are supported to develop an interprofessional model adapted to local needs.

Pam is currently completing a PhD to evaluate best practice biopsychosocial rehabilitation.

Rachel Kovacevic has acquired considerable skill in service development and leadership through a range of senior roles in health, education and community settings. This has included co-ordination of a multidisciplinary Pain Service at a private rehabilitation hospital.

She is currently involved in establishing a pain service in the primary health sector in the Northern Territory.

Rachel is an advocate for service delivery models that balance financial sustainability with principles of equity and accessibility.   She often draws on the Abilita materials to complement workshop training and empower local teams to implement the principles of pain self-management in standardised, practical way.

Rachel balances work at Innovative Rehab with her role as Clinical Director at a community-based mental health practice; She is an endorsed Clinical Psychologist, accredited Rehabilitation Provider and an AHPRA-accredited Supervisor.

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