Pain Psychology Interest Group


Pain Psychology Interest Group

The Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force estimates that approximately 50 million US adults live with chronic pain, and 19.6 million adults experience significant interference in their daily life activities as a result of their pain condition. Even more staggering than these figures are the financial implications: it is estimated that pain-related expenses cost our nation $500-635 billion annually.

Currently, the definitive pain policy statement in the U.S. is the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force Report, which was published in 2019. This seminal policy statement was a joint publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and a panel of experts. This report outlines educational, research, and clinical challenges that directly impact our nation’s ability to effectively prevent, evaluate, and treat pain. It also proposed pathways to address pain treatment needs while reducing opioid mortality rates. The principles underlying these recommendations explicitly reference the role of psychosocial factors in pain and cite a need for interdisciplinary approaches to pain assessment and treatment. Many of the obstacles to effective pain treatment identified in this report persist to this day and are also accompanied by new hurdles as well. Prominent among these new hurdles is that the COVID-19 pandemic led to the emergence of the “long hauler” syndrome, a prominent symptom of which is diffuse chronic pain symptom. At the same time, the pandemic also decreased access to effective pain care at a time when there was increased access to illegal opioids. As a result, despite our society’s best efforts the opioid mortality crisis remains uncontrolled.

Successfully addressing the aforementioned requires both research-oriented psychologists studying the science of pain, as well as clinical practitioners translating these findings into evidence-based treatment. As research and clinical care do not occur in a void, energy must also be directed toward pain education, policy, and advocacy. Many psychologists are engaged in such activities through national and international pain associations; however, there was no profession-based organization specifically supporting such efforts at a national level.

The Pain Psychology Interest Group was created in 2016 to advance the science and practice of psychology to minimize suffering, maximize functioning, and improve quality of life for individuals living with pain. The formation of the Interest Group is a great benefit to psychologists working in the field of pain and has established SfHP as a major stakeholder in the burgeoning field of pain management. Since its inception, members of the Interest Group have been involved with a number of activities to advance the profession, including (but not limited to): 

  • Collaboration with APA and state psychological associations (Ohio, Oklahoma) to raise awareness of the role of psychology in pain and health with state legislators and their representatives. Such advocacy initiatives are part of a larger-scale effort to address access and reimbursement issues for patients and clinicians. 
  • Creation of a pain education curriculum for APA intended to be delivered at the state level to educate psychologists across all settings on the role of pain in physical and emotional well-being.
  • In partnership with the Interdivisional Healthcare Committee, developing and presenting a full-day pain management pre-conference workshop at the annual meeting.
  • Subcommittee of members invited to serve on an advisory panel to help guide APA’s response to the opioid crisis. Several individuals provided feedback to APA CEO Dr. Arthur Evans regarding his discussion with the US Surgeon General on this issue.
  • Publishing a paper in the American Psychologist proposing core competencies for Pain Psychology.
  • Presenting pain-related programming at the APA Annual Conference.
  • Members specifically recruited from the Interest Group to present on pain-related issues at national conferences and policy holder meetings.

The above represents just a small portion of the work done by the Interest Group and its members over the years. The group continues to thrive and is open to any student or psychologist who has an interest in pain-related work.

What is the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Pain Special Interest Group (SIG)? 

The APA Pain Psychology Special Interest Group is a group of researchers and psychologists who share a particular interest in advancing the science and practice of pain. The role of this group is to: 

  1. Define the core competencies required of psychologists who identify as having an expertise in pain
  2. Support research on pain prevention, assessment, and treatment
  3. Promote use of evidence-based treatment in clinical practice
  4. Educate psychologists, non-psychologist professionals, and the public on the role of psychology in pain
  5. Liaison with national and international pain and medical organizations (e.g. AAPM, IASP, AMA) to enhance collaboration across other disciplines associated with pain research and treatment
  6. Engage in advocacy work to support ongoing development and accessibility of pain-related research and treatment
  7. Facilitate dissemination of information, communication, and networking among pain psychologists through a SfHP web page, a listserv, face-to-face meetings during the APA convention, and other means. 

Current Pain SIG Personnel

Chair: Daniel Bruns, PsyD                          Associate Chair: Maija Bruzas, PhD

How to Join the APA Pain Special Interest Group:

Please contact us at for more information or to be added to the listserv.

Pain Psychology Resources