What is The Comfort Ability Program?

The Comfort Ability is a fun and interactive one-day program to help adolescents and their parents or caregivers learn how to better manage chronic pain. The program introduces biobehavioral and cognitive behavioral pain management strategies. The program was developed at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2010.  It is now running at many children’s hospitals in the US, Canada, and Australia. 

Is the Comfort Ability taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Comfort Ability Program has been adapted to a virtual format in order to reach families while it is not safe to gather in person. Find a list of sites offering the virtual Comfort Ability here

What happens at The Comfort Ability?

Adolescents and parents spend most of the day in separate groups.

Adolescents will:

  • Learn how the nervous system works and how it processes pain
  • Discuss how and why negative emotions and stress can make pain worse
  • Practice relaxation based exercises including guided imagery and diaphragmatic breathing
  • Experiment with biofeedback and aromatherapy
  • Learn helpful skills for managing pain at home and school
  • Engage in a group art activity
  • Have a chance to share pain experiences and learn how others have learned to manage this problem

Parents/caregivers will: 

  • Learn the neuroscience of chronic pain and sensitization
  • Discuss factors that contribute to chronic pain in children
  • Understand how developmental factors influence pain
  • Learn and practice strategies for supporting a child at home and school
  • Construct behavior plans for tracking functional progress
  • Gather resources for ongoing support
  • Review the skills and strategies that the adolescents learn

Who can attend The Comfort Ability?

Eligibility may vary depending on the site running the program. Typically, youth ages 10-17 are eligible to attend the workshop. At least one parent or caregiver is required to attend the session.

This program may be appropriate for youth with chronic pain including:

  • Chronic headache or migraine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Persistent post-surgical pain
  • Pain due to chronic medical conditions
  • Fibromyalgia/Pain Amplification Syndrome
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

How large is the group?

Group size may vary depending on the site running the program.  Groups typically include between 8-12 families.

How long is the program?

The Comfort Ability program is six hours long.  There are many scheduled breaks throughout the day.  The group is designed in a relaxed format so that adolescents and parents can be comfortable throughout the day. 

How will I remember everything I’ve learned?

Parents and children each receive their own take-home manual that includes all the information covered in the course of the day.  Additionally, each Comfort Ability site can share local resources for more information as needed.  If you still have questions, feel free to participate in one of our online chats or submit a question to the “Ask an Expert” feature. 

How much does the program cost?

Participation costs vary depending on the site running the program. Many sites have financial assistance available if needed.  Please contact a specific site using the “Find a Workshop” feature to learn more about cost. 

How do I enroll?

Find a Comfort Ability workshop near you using the “Find a Workshop” feature.

How is my privacy protected when I participate in programs like the online chats? 

Please read over our complete "Privacy Policy."

Other questions?

For general questions about the program, please feel free to email: TheComfortAbility@childrens.harvard.edu

For specific questions about program dates, availability, or cost, please contact the site closest to you: "Find a Workshop"

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