Pain psychology: A global needs assessment and national call to action

Beth D. Darnall, Judith Scheman, Sara Davin, John W. Burns, Jennifer L. Murphy, Anna C. Wilson, Robert D. Kerns, Sean C. Mackey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Objective. The Institute of Medicine and the draft National Pain Strategy recently called for better training for health care clinicians. This was the first high-level needs assessment for pain psychology services and resources in the United States. Design. Prospective, observational, cross-sectional. Methods. Brief surveys were administered online to six stakeholder groups (psychologists/therapists, individuals with chronic pain, pain physicians, primary care physicians/physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and the directors of graduate and postgraduate psychology training programs). Results. 1,991 responses were received. Results revealed low confidence and low perceived competency to address physical pain among psychologists/ therapists, and high levels of interest and need for pain education. We found broad support for pain psychology across stakeholder groups, and global support for a national initiative to increase pain training and competency in U.S. therapists. Among directors of graduate and postgraduate psychology training programs, we found unanimous interest for a no-cost pain psychology curriculum that could be integrated into existing programs. Primary barriers to pain psychology include lack of a system to identify qualified therapists, paucity of therapists with pain training, limited awareness of the psychological treatment modality, and poor insurance coverage. Conclusions. This report calls for transformation within psychology predoctoral and postdoctoral education and training and psychology continuing education to include and emphasize pain and pain management. A system for certification is needed to facilitate quality control and appropriate reimbursement. There is a need for systems to facilitate identification and access to practicing psychologists and therapists skilled in the treatment of pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-263
Number of pages14
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2016


  • Chronic pain
  • Education
  • Pain management
  • Pain training programs
  • Psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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