COUNCILS & COMMITTEES

Pain Psychology Interest Group

COUNCILS & COMMITTEES

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.

In its seminal 2011 report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) outlined educational, research, and clinical challenges that directly impact our ability to effectively prevent, evaluate, and treat pain and proposed pathways to address them. The principles underlying their recommendations explicitly reference the role of psychosocial factors in pain and cite a need for interdisciplinary approaches to assessment and treatment. Although more than a decade has passed since its publication, many of the obstacles that the IOM identified persist to this day and are accompanied by new hurdles. 

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. Please contact Barbara Keeton at apadiv38@verizon.net and ask to be put in touch with the chair of the Pain Interest Group for more information or to be added to the listserv.

To learn more about the manner in which psychologists help with pain management, click here for a summary from APA's Help Center.