Meet Jennifer Robbins, LCSW
Managing Pain: How one clinician helps unite medical and behavioral health.
Within the first few minutes of meeting Jennifer Robbins, LCSW, it’s clear that she not only loves her job but is also passionate about helping people with chronic pain. Robbins is an integrated behavioral health clinician stationed at the Southern Maine Health Care pain management clinic in Kennebunk, ME. As a clinical social worker and substance use counselor, she brings a valuable perspective to the treatment of chronic pain that benefits her medical teammates and their collective patients.
“There is incredible loss attached to pain and chronic issues,” Robbins explained. “A patient may be dealing with the loss of a job or inability to do a job they used to do – and the grief and loss experienced with the death of what your life could have been. That can create an increase of depression, anxiety or potential suicidal thinking and I want to help them find new value in their life.”
As a valued member of the team, Jennifer is often called upon to assess new patients by one of her colleagues. She looks for potential risks of substance misuse that may require referral to one of our medication assisted treatment centers -- or indication of any behavioral health concern that could exist alongside the chronic pain or even lead to it. For instance, much research has been done on the link between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and higher rates of long-term health issues – like pain – as adults.
Jennifer Robbins is uniquely skilled at treating and identifying people living with the behavioral health impacts of trauma. Sometimes, a person may not even be aware of a connection. In one example, a patient who was badly injured in a car accident years ago never had the opportunity to deal with the trauma of the accident itself. Having Robbins on-site at the pain clinic was a convenient way for the patient to get the behavioral health counseling they needed, together with the medical treatments offered by other members of the care team.
It is that connection that makes all the difference. Jennifer Robbins loves being part of the medical team and the feeling is mutual.
Korrie Waters, DO occupies an office next to Robbins and the two often confer on patients.
“Jen is 100% essential as part of our team,” said Dr. Waters. “To be able to approach pain and pain management from both sides – not only the physical side with doing injections, manipulation or acupuncture – but also the other side that brings in the mind-body connection and how important our emotions can be in how we feel pain and how trauma influences pain.”
This connection is why the practice offers the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) program. Through ACT, participants are taught how to make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. They learn to see how problems are connected, how problems are affecting them, and how to shift their thoughts and feelings.
Dr. Waters can see the physical manifestations of the stress a patient may be holding as she treats a patient with myofascial techniques, a type of manual therapy often used in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). If a patient is holding a lot of stress, she will often ask Robbins to provide more behavioral health treatment as this will help the OTM work even better.
“Without someone like Jennifer, these patients would not be able to take the next step necessary to manage their chronic pain,” Dr. Waters said.
For Jennifer Robbins, it can be about helping an individual work through the instant that caused the trauma as in the case of a car accident.
“A lot of times people have never worked past that moment. We can notice how the person holds themselves as if they are bracing for impact. I can help them work through that moment to help loosen things up so Korrie can do the work.”
Jennifer Robbins is one of more than 60 integrated behavioral health clinicians working at medical practices throughout the MaineHealth system of care. The Southern Maine Health Care Pain Management Center in Kennebunk is located at 2 Livewell Drive and can be reached at 207-467-8550.