How do we get key recovery messages to people with pain in rural and remote areas?  This was a question for discussion and debate amongst allied health professionals gathered at the SARRAH Conference in Darwin this month.

Informed by years of practice in the Northern Territory, Pam Garton, Occupational Therapist and founder of Abilita Services and Rachel Kovacevic, Clinical Psychologist from Innovative Rehab, facilitated a workshop on Innovative Approaches to building Pain Management Service capacity in rural and remote locations.  Biopsychosocial case formulation and an inter-professsional approach were highlighted as helpful ways to make sense of clinical complexity in isolated areas.

“The key messages are simple,” reflected Pam, “Stay active, down-regulate stress, pace activity and stay connected to key life roles.”  Pam provided an overview of the Abilita Assessment tools and Pain Coaching Program, which can be used to quickly identify barriers and promote self-management with minimal-specialised pain training.  Pam also spoke about the Control My Pain Project, a consumer self-help course, developed in association with Abilita.

Collaboration and resourcefulness were noted as strengths of allied health providers in rural and remote locations, and a good fit with the inter-professional paradigm.  Rachel outlined the process of developing the Pain NT Service, which uses a co-ordinated team model, across multiple businesses in Darwin.  “Innovative Rehab brings pain-specific knowledge from interstate,” Rachel explained, “but our aim has always been to build local capacity”. To do this, the high level of staff turnover in remote areas has been factored into the model, with the Pain Coaching Program used to supplement onsite training.  

Throughout the Conference, a wealth of ideas were shared regarding the development of innovative allied health service models to meet local needs.  The uniqueness of life in rural remote areas, differences in community culture and wide variation in population demographics relative to city areas were recurrent themes.  Also highlighted was the opportunity for local allied health professionals to deliver simple pain self-management messages.  “The culture of service delivery varies considerably in rural and remote areas,” said Rachel.  “To be sustainable, targeted local pain services need to be developed in conjunction with the locals,”


Innovative Rehab and Abilita have produced a webinar on Developing and Managing an Effective Pain Service –

Access the Abilita online courses at
Learn about the Control My Pain Project at

Check out the Innovative Rehab team and find out more at



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