Core Competencies for the Emerging Specialty of Pain Psychology

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Abstract

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has reported that approximately 100 million Americans experience chronic pain. The IOM report on pain and the subsequent National Pain Strategy (NPS) issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have both noted the educational gaps regarding pain management and highlighted the pivotal role that psychology plays in the field of pain management. Fishman and colleagues (2013) emphasized the need for all providers involved in the study and practice of pain management to acquire a common fund of knowledge and proposed a comprehensive set of core competencies that would apply across multiple professions and specialty areas (e.g., anesthesiology, nursing, and psychology). These core competencies are meant to be tailored to allow each pain-related subspecialty to incorporate the factors and competencies unique to their discipline. To date, the terms pain psychology and pain psychologist are routinely used in public discourse to refer to psychologists practicing integrated, multimodal, and multidisciplinary pain care, but the field of psychology has not yet defined this emerging specialty. It is important for the discipline itself to define these terms and for psychologists to specify the competencies that would be expected of a clinician working as a pain psychologist. The current article represents an initial effort to define the core competencies necessary to fulfill the role of a pain psychologist working in the field of pain management.

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