• University of Exeter

Cognitive Behavioural Skills to Treat Back Pain: The Back Skills Training (BeST) Programme

Learn an evidence-based, cognitive behavioural approach to manage low back pain with this CPD course for health professionals.

5,529 enrolled on this course

Cognitive Behavioural Skills to Treat Back Pain: The Back Skills Training (BeST) Programme

5,529 enrolled on this course

  • 6 weeks

  • 2 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Intermediate level

Find out more about how to join this course

Understand a cognitive behavioural approach to manage ongoing low back pain

The Back Skills Training (BeST) programme focuses on ‘undoing’ beliefs about low back pain, and provides skills to become more active, despite pain. The programme was developed by experts in psychology, physiotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and people with long-standing low back pain. According to a rigorous clinical trial, the BeST programme produces long term reductions in people’s pain and disability and is a very cost effective treatment.

On this course you will explore the BeST programme, examining the causes of persistent low back pain, and the cognitive behavioural approach.


  • Week 1

    Introduction and Background to the course

    • Meet the course team

      Introduction to the Back Skills Training team

    • What is this course?

      What is the BeST programme? How was it developed? What will you learn from this course?

    • Chronic low back pain

      What is chronic low back pain?

    • Cognitive behavioural interventions

      Introduction to cognitive behavioural interventions

    • Why this approach?

      Why is a cognitive behavioural approach useful for managing chronic low back pain?

    • Delivery of the BeST programme

      Summary outline and structure of the BeST programme

  • Week 2

    Understanding the patients perspective

    • Introduction to Week 2

      During Week 2, we will cover the BeST programme individual session. You will be able to download the guidance notes for this session. We introduce the first key skill of questioning and how to deal with distressed patients.

    • The patient's perspective

      Learn the key skill of exploring the patient's perspective.

    • Home exercise planning

      How to facilitate each patient in choosing a home exercise programme from a range of exercises at 3 levels.

    • Questioning techniques

      Learn the key skill of questioning

    • Dealing with distress

      Learn how to deal with distress that may arise when delivering the BeST programme.

    • Clinical considerations

      Tips to deal with tricky topics that patients may raise within the BeST programme.

  • Week 3

    Group sessions 1 and 2 of the BeST Programme

    • Introduction to Week 3

      During Week 3, we will cover Group Sessions 1 and 2 of the BeST programme. You will be able to download summaries of each session. We introduce explaining pain; the cognitive behavioural model and the over/under activity cycle.

    • Explaining pain

      Understand and learn to explain pain.

    • The cognitive behavioural model of activity and pain

      Introduction to the cognitive behavioural model of activity and pain.

    • Group Session 2 of the BeST programme

      Over / under activity cycling; pacing; goal setting and graded activity.

    • Over and under activity cycling

      Introduction to over / under activity cycling and its effects.

  • Week 4

    Group sessions 2 and 3 of the BeST Programme

    • Introduction to Week 4

      During Week 4, we will cover Group Sessions 2 and 3 of the BeST programme. You will be able to download the crib sheets of each session. We will cover pacing, goal setting, and the links between thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

    • Skills taught in the BeST programme

      The skills taught in this session are: pacing, setting baselines and goal setting. Teaching patients these skills can help them gain control over their pain.

    • Thoughts, feelings and behaviours

      Introduction to the differences and links between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, distinct types of thinking errors that lead to negative thoughts and the process of challenging thoughts in practice.

    • Bringing it together

      Combining the learning about thought challenging with the model of low back pain.

  • Week 5

    Group Sessions 4 and 5 of the BeST Programme

    • Introduction to Week 5

      During Week 5, we will cover Group Sessions 4 and 5 of the BeST programme. You will be able to download the crib sheets of each session.

    • Fear of movement

      Introduction to fear-avoidance and tackling fear of movement.

    • Relaxation

      Introduction to relaxation and the role of relaxation techniques in pain management.

    • Worrying about pain

      Introduction to the effects of worrying about pain and how to tackle this. Principles of taking medications to assist in pain management.

    • Further relaxation techniques

      Introduction to 2 further types of relaxation - autogenic relaxation and visualization.

  • Week 6

    Group Session 6 and Bringing it all together

    • Introduction to Week 6

      During Week 6, we will cover the content of Group Session 6, plan for learning and implementation beyond this course, revisit key topics and bring together all of the learning from the course.

    • Dealing with flare-ups

      Learn strategies that can be taught to patients to help them manage during good and bad phases.

    • Revisiting topics with BeST participants

      Revisit the key aspects of pacing, goal setting, thought challenging, feared movements, exercise progression and relaxation techniques.

    • Key clinical skills

      Consider the skill of using summaries. Revisit and revise the key skills of problem solving, questioning and dealing with distress.

    • Bringing it all together

      Assessment for upgraded learners. Furthering your skills. Final thoughts. Contact details.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply a cognitive behavioural approach to effectively help people better manage persistent low back pain.
  • Reflect on how to implement these techniques in clinical practice.
  • Lead a group back skills training (BeST) programme in your clinical setting.
  • Demonstrate understanding of a cognitive behavioural approach to managing persistent low back pain.

Who is the course for?

This course is approved by the British Psychological Society for the purposes of Continuing Professional Development for healthcare professionals. It is an unfacilitated course designed for healthcare professionals with a role or interest in managing patients with low back pain (including nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychological therapists).

It will also be useful for students training to become healthcare professionals. The Certificate of Achievement for this course would be useful for providing evidence of CPD.

Who will you learn with?

Pippa is a physiotherapist and researcher at the University of Oxford, focusing on the management of musculoskeletal conditions which affect older people.

Esther is a physiotherapist and researcher at the University of Oxford. She is Deputy-Director of the Centre for Rehabilitation Research.

Beth Fordham is a health psychology researcher. Beth aims to use psychological theory and practice to improve quality of life in physical and mental health conditions.

Zara is a physiotherapist and a cognitive behavioural therapist. She integrates the two professions through her research, clinical, and teaching work.

Who developed the course?

University of Exeter

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction.

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  • Access to 1,000+ courses
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  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$94/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

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  • Access expires 20 Jan 2023

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