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Society for Health Psychology

What Should You Know to be a Competent Pain Psychologist?

Pain Psychology

  1. You Should Understand the Multidimensional Nature of Pain – You should be familiar with the biopsychosocial model, being able to determine the multiple factors that influence pain for a specific person.  You should possess knowledge of theories of pain.  You should have familiarity with a variety of pain conditions/medical terminology used to characterize pain/medical treatments for pain.  You should have the ability to communicate this understanding to professionals and patients in a coherent way.
  2. You Should Assess And Measure Pain Appropriately – You should have familiarity with standardized assessments to measure pain and know how to administer and interpret these assessments to inform and optimize treatment planning.
  3. You Should be Able to Help Patients Manage Pain – You should be able to provide patients with evidence-based mental health treatment for their pain and comorbid mental and behavioral health issues (e.g., anxiety, smoking) and collaborate with patients’ other medical providers (physicians, psychiatrists) to optimize care.
  4. You Should be Aware of How Contextual Variables Influence Pain – You should have knowledge of how cultural, institutional, societal, and regulatory influences affect pain perceptions and treatment.

For more, check out this American Psychologist paper on “Core Competencies for the Emerging Specialty of Pain Psychology” (Wandner, Prasad, Ramezani, Malcore, & Kerns, 2019).