Lack of Pain Psychologists Cited

Lack of Pain Psychologists Cited

By Ed Coghlan.

An article released by the American Psychological Association this month points to the lack of pain psychologists in the U.S.

Psychologists are in demand for nonpharmacological treatment options for chronic pain—though hurdles remain.

The article quotes Tennessee pain psychologist Ted Jones, PhD, who works at a clinic with an active patient load of 1600 but with only two pain psychologists available to treat them.

“We’re seeing more and more patients here, and we’d like to offer more services,” says Jones, who evaluates potential candidates for drug treatments and provides psychological treatments like CBT in group and individual sessions. He would like to hire another psychologist—but he can’t find a good candidate.

“We haven’t yet built the incentives that would encourage enough psychologists to go into this field,” says Robert Kerns, PhD, a professor at Yale University and former national program director for pain management at the VA.

The government pressure on opioid prescribing is having an effect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out its guidelines in 2016; several states have passed laws limiting their use; and opioid prescriptions decreased 22 percent between 2013 and 2017.

The problem, of course, is that the government constricted the supply of opioids but has not created any policy that would promote alternatives for the millions of pain patients who use opioids responsibly.

And insurance companies still aren’t covering many of the therapies that patients might want to try instead of using opioids (or because opioids are no longer available because doctors aren’t prescribing)

Meanwhile, pain advocates and patients wait for the recommendations from The Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force. It was established to propose updates to best practices and issue recommendations that address gaps or inconsistencies for managing chronic and acute pain. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is overseeing this effort with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Defense.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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Louis Ogden

ElizabethR, I agree 100% with you about “thoughts and prayers.” It is a hackneyed expression that does NOTHING to help anyone. At least it has never helped me.


Psychologists and Licensed Clinical Social Workers who provide therapy for patients experiencing chronic pain can prove useful in developing strategies for coping with pain in conjunction with the medical physician providing medication to alleviate, or at least make the pain tolerable. Unfortunately, the politicians who have no understanding of chronic pain or the “opioid crisis” have taken on the cause, demonized responsible use of medication, leaving chronic pain patients with inadequate interventions, decreased quality of life, and depression. Oh, and did I mention viewing suicide, the last resource, as a way to alleviate their pain.

Jackie Bennett

Did anyone else think the title suggested that there’s a lack of pain, cited by psychologists, rather than a lack of psychologists to treat pain patients- at first glance?
Prior to re-reading it -I was prepared to respond to what I aassumed would be yet another preposterous story about some new study, and their “findings” -scripted by propagandistics & spread like manure & wildfire.
They’ve taken two completely separate issues, and merged them into one deadly epidemic. How tough is it to recruit the family’s & loved ones who’ve already endured a tragic loss due to opioid abuse, misuse and/or overdose & death? Sure, they’ll sign up for an opioid smear campaign to rally against the “weapon” that took their loved one.
Look @ our “Right to Bear Arms” debate &;the naysayers who want to change, or rewrite our constitution.
We, as Americans have the right to bear arms & it’s supposed to be protected by the Untied States Constitution.
(Just as we have a right to be treated for pain) & not treated like unworthy, disposable “weak links.”
(My opioids for legitimate pain) did not cause the untimely death of someone else’s family member or loved one & as tragic as that is…no one should be prohibited from finding relief from debilitating pain, or cheated out of any real quality of life because someone else abused something that we have a right to access in a safe, responsible manner.
My son’s firearms did not play a role in a mas shooting or anything other than what they’re intended for.
#1- Protection, and #2- Hunting.
If there’s a problem within an existing system, or it’s flawed- there has to be a reasonable solution in place before they ’86’ the whole program.
The “unintended consequences” are grossly unethical & nothing less than genocide for millions of innocent citizens.
If they’re attempting to repair or re-pave the road to pain relief, there needs to be a detour set up (first)- before they close the roads!

Drucella Williams

We are all so different! Our common denominator is we are suffering from pain. Our pain comes from many causes, having the cure for that pain taken away is more than devastating! We also find ourselves in different living conditions. For me, I live alone with my dog whom I love very much, I don’t have a good support system of friends and family. Depression has been a part of my life since childhood, both of my parents struggled with it also. Being the age I am, disabled, mostly bedridden with knowone coming to visit but maybe twice a year for lunch, that’s the extent of my human connection except for Drs and a psychologist! For me having a person to talk with about anything I want, every other week is important to me and of great benefit! Does everybody in chronic pain need to see a psychologist! Not everyone does, but knowone needs to criticize what my help others deal with life, with or without pain medication. Why is it that people think we are all the same, obviously we are not. Do I want us to have our pain medication returned to us, absolutely I do! That is what we all can agree with as absolutely necessary……

Michael Schatman

Government needs to stop telling doctors how to treat their patients this is violation of my civil rights in the highest degree. Until the patients start filing law ,suits against these peabrain, idiotic , morons who are leaving defenseless patients in pain with their untested plans,for recovery from opioids,which are bad for patients they say,used as prescribed these drugs are a blessing to me I don’t lay in a crumpled up fetal position any more from the numerous bone diseases that have wracked my body years of hard labor employment,instead of helping patient these idiots are taking medicine from documented in need patients ,what’s next if young people find a way to get high again On diabetic and asthma drugs like in the seventies asmadorf which caused a lot of ods I didn’t see them pulling drugs from diabetics and asthmatics the government needs to protect the junkies and boozing college kids Poppin them like candy be cause their to drunk to realize what their doing hence overdose !at the expense of the Pain patients who will turn to herion or anything to escape their pain,and I know then you will see herion deaths like never before Now new age pot head pschiatrist are gonna talk me out of my pain, really people, really


Dear Terri, a Pain Psychologist can help, especially a good one. I, of course also suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, CFS & Fibro, since 1987. Now Degenerative Disc Disease too, etc. This Therapist helps me realize not only is my pain real, but gives me many ideas on how to cope. Lost 35 yr. Old son to Melanoma and he gave me 4 books on grief for Christmas. Has said many times he would see me for free. He validates my pain, grief, and helps Me fight guilt and low self esteem from 1st abusive husband. He is very knowledgeable on many causes of Chronic Pain and works to help me fight for peace. It isn’t a magic wand, but he is reassuring and shares our frustration with government’s interference and totally illogical and discriminating actions against all Chronic Pain Patients. Medicare starting to limit Opioid prescriptions in 2019 is another example of their insanity. I’m 58 and have been on SS Disability, since 2015. Praying for all.


As a pain painent who as just about been exterminated by society I see no collolation.

Tony Rivas

What a joke. Served the VA as a what? What a joke Veteran’s either have to see private pain Specialist and pay for treatment or self medicate to ease pain. VA could careless.

Louis Ogden

I have never felt like I needed a psychologist. I am a chronic pain patient and have been all of my adult life (I’m 68 now). I was forced to go thru CBT therapy twice and it was a waste of time. I cannot think myself out of pain. Perhaps this could help some people whose pain is not centralized, but opioids are the ONLY thing that works for me and now I find myself on a forced taper. I’ll be in agony b4 I know it. I’m sorry if I sound bitter, but quite frankly, I am!

PJ Schuster

I agree with Terri James, William Dorn, & Barbara who have already commented on here. More psychologists are NOT the answer! WTH does anyone think a psychologist is going to do to “cure” my spinal stenosis? That means my spine is impinging on my spinal cord, the largest nerve in my body. Whomever writes or even thinks this nonsense needs to have someone pinchone of their nerves with a pair of pliers, or stick a needle in their ulcer nerve & THEN let me tell you that you need cognitive behavioral therapy to convince you that it doesn’t really hurt, you should just move through the pain. What a crock! I’d much rather the govt put more money toward perfecting spinal surgery so that it actually is effective & doesn’t make the patient end up in worse pain, instead of educating more psychologists to try & convince me it’s all a state of mind.


This article was confusing 2 me, I thought Dr. Jones would of said,we need more psychologists 2 help the patients with a true medical need for opioids/higher doses of opioids get the medicine they need.By evaluation of records / making sure they don’t have an addictive personality we will back up & fight 4 those patients. Then 4 patients without true medical need who r addicted we can offer drug treatment. But once again, it seems 2 b about addicts/ withdrawal. NOT about patients who r NOT addicts, who r suffering at home in pain. When r MDs going 2 back the patients who r suffering in massive pain??!


I’m not at all religious, but I’d bet that even many who are may be losing patience with the strategy of “thoughts and prayers” as applied to America’s TRUE epidemic of mass slaughter/shootings–and chronic pain. I know I am. Pain psychologists may help some patients, but I find myself in agreement with Barbara and Terri, also Marilyn and William.

Psychologists’ services are expensive and often aren’t covered by insurance or the number of sessions is very limited–as with PT, chiropractic, massage therapy, acupuncture, etc. This may not be the case for cancer patients which, thank goodness, I am not at this time! My Medicare+Choice HMO covers 10 sessions per YEAR of any individual “alternative therapy”. So, even if any of these were actually effective (I’ve tried many, with a wide range of mostly-temporary outcomes), regular access throughout the year isn’t in the plan.

I will state again: chronic pain patients who use medication responsibly did not create the “opioid crisis” but we are being blamed for it and the result is unnecessary pain and suffering for many people. I join others in projecting that one of the long-term consequences of current government overreach (ironically by the party of “small government”) may be a significant increase in the suicide rate.

Democrats/ Republicans both sides voted 99 to 1 no opiates. Look it up. President Trump is issuing millions of dollars for mental health addiction. Wether it gets goes thru or not we’ll see then I think this will just make it where every PM will have more patience that he will decide that are addicts. I think I found the answer to why chronic pain people or being denied opiates is called economics. It has nothing to do with opiate deaths but what they are doing is called DERMIT GOOD LAW look up on demerit good law and legal definition us these are some things you want to look up for yourself as well 1.FASCISM 2. Market failures 3. Externality 4. Defensive practice 5. Civil rights 6. Alcohol tax. 7. Negative externality Fascism principal go of achieving National Economic self-sufficiency through protective and self-sufficient & interventionalist economic policies. Propaganda for mass movement of people. (addiction advertisements) legalize marijuana increases taxes revenue for government will not be paid by insurance . Demerit good is a good or service whose consumption is considered unhealthy degrading or otherwise socially unacceptable due to the perceived negativity effects on the consumers themselves, Sin Tax . Externality is the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit (meaning your health insurance company.) Medicare would be known as a market failure because it is inefficient because chronic pain people still have chronic pain and therefore require more services cost. That’s why all insurance companies or denying cost of opiates and treatment and passing it along to the chronic pain person chronic pain person cannot afford interventionalist / alternative Therapies or psychologist therefore the government and insurance companies save money due to the fact people will not continue or seek treatment. I am a chronic pain person w/o treatment looking for an answer why our government doesn’t care about us.


I am sure that a psychologist may be able to help some patients with pain. As a patient for 23 years I CAN say, been there, done that. As it has been said just how…..can a psychologist help a patient with nerve damage, failed surgery and known pain generating disease? Is it going to take psychological treatment BEFORE opiate medication can be prescribed? How about patient history with use of an opiate pain management program that can attest to nothing short of success? Is patient history no longer credible, viable for continued opiate medication prescribing in an effective dosage tailored to a patient? DEA must get out of doctor/patient relationships unless a reason is presented to intervene from a diversion law being broken. From the statistics I have been reading now for over two years, the pain management patient is NOT guilty of breaking diversion law concerning their personal and responsible use of their opiate medication as the very effing last resource to keep pain generation from their disease or injury from reaching a suicidal level.

I seen a psychiatrist for 15 years because pain was getting so bad that I started having seizures and all that did for me was get me God on another drug that I know can no longer be on psychiatrist do not have to be involved in every stinking aspect of our lives Good grief if I wanted L. Ron Hubbard in my life I would job Scientology so PLEASE psychiatrist you don’t need to be in my Life your not the kind of DR I need

A major role for pain psychologists is to teach patients how to explain, calmly and rationally, that we are not addicts and when you take away our medicine you are making us worse, not better. Fear and anxiety make pain more difficult to treat, and families who have an irrational fear of addiction do great harm to family members who need pain relief. I had the honor of knowing the late Dr Joel Hochman of Houston, who helped organize pain treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr Hochman was board certified in psychiatry. He understood that untreated pain drives people nuts, and he made it his personal goal that every new resident coming to MD Anderson for oncology training, understood why patients suddenly look saner after their pain is controlled and they get a good night’s sleep. A lot of people are too dumb to figure this out and need a psych expert to teach them about it.

chuck darrah

If you have horrific constant chronic pain opiod pain medications are the only thing that works. I have wasted a fortune on alternative solutions.This is just another attempt to fleece those of us in so much pain we will try anything

This article raises excellent points! My PM doc just mentioned how many of his patients are looking for a therapist.
Greenville Hospital in SC developed an Integrative Oncology Program that has been nothing short of a Godsend to me. After my breast cancer diagnosis, all the disciplines met with me in one appointment. My Oncologist, Surgeon, Anesthesiologist, Radiologist & Nurse Navigator took turns sitting with me & discussing my options. In addition to medical providers, the program includes a host of other specialists that will follow me for the rest of my life. I have access to PT, wellness classes, music & art therapy, dietician, yoga, aromatherapy and a Social Worker. I was a chronic pain patient prior to my cancer diagnosis, but they don’t separate the two. My Surgeon got me into a PM program, Oncology advised on pain meds, etc… By far, the relationship & accessibility l have with my Social Worker has helped me through very stressful periods. Although she’s not a pain management specialist, she has been there for me during my most anxious times. Stress is known to aggravate pain & l definitely notice a difference when l don’t see her for an extended period of time. I feel very lucky to have her.


This sounds good when you’re reading it, but I have to wonder how many chronic pain patients can afford to pay a psychologist!?! I know I can’t. Even when a PM specialist suggested I get a pain pump I couldn’t afford to do the pre psychology test before they put in a test pump.i fall into the category of too young to get a Medicare supplement so I’m left with hundreds of dollars out of pocket. Maybe even thousands! I try not to complain & I did very well with a new pain med 3x a day, but my PM Dr cut me back & I don’t know from month to month when he’s going to stop my meds completely. I work a very sedentary job 3 days a week & find it harder & harder both mentally & physically to continue with it. I had 7 surgeries in 7 years & still deal with pain on a daily basis. Why can’t we just be left alone to take our meds responsibly & try to have as “normal” of a life as we can. I’m tired of dealing with all of it, government, Drs scared to treat patients & most of all the mental & physical toll it takes on us!

Katie Olmstead

Psychologists who specialize in pain management, whether in a pain clinic setting or otherwise, have always been hard to find. Harder still, to find ones that happen to carry your insurance. I am not sure how this relates to opioid prescriptions, or limitations on them, except that all of us, really, who are living with chronic pain, with or without pain meds, would do well to have a specialized psychologist on board. No idea how you get more psychologists to be trained in this work and out in the field. I am lucky enough to have one of these gems.

In other words, what we already know, they’ve created a mess they just can’t fix…quick enough! I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, someone please tell me just what on earth a psychologist is going to tell you to stop you from hurting when you wake up in the middle of the night after attempting to have somewhat of an active day and your body is throbbing like a toothache??? Just what on earth are they going to say that’s going to stop you from throbbing with pain? Any psychiatrist out there willing to offer some free advice? I’d sure like to hear it! Matter of fact, I’m going to assume we’d all like to.

William Dorn

I am a 65 year old retired man who can still work a part time job and still be a husband a father and a grandfather because of opioid pain medicines. There are millions of folks just like me who would be living in misery without these medicines. I would like to ask our government to please let us live and let our doctors decide what we need. We are not the problem illegal drugs are.


And as we all wait for all the meetings and forums and task forces to get together and make some decisions about how treat the chronic pain patients, people are SUFFERING AND DYING.Patients are forced into drug treatment programs and given Suboxene when they are NOT addicts. Or they are forced tapered off their pain meds and go thru excruciatingly painful withdrawal which can kill folks by seizures, high BP, strokes, heart attacks , and/or suicides. More psycologists are not the answer. If you have a proven injury/illness and have tried everything there is to try(and it’s an endless list) and you see a reputable doctor, pass all urine tests, take meds only as directed and opiods have given you back your quality of life then what more is there to talk about? The CDC put out false statistics on overdoses. They started this nightmare and they and our president and government need to fix this and fix it NOW. People say the president was given false info and he doesn’t know we’re suffering. Come on!! He knows alright. He’s in no hurry to help us. Thought Sessions was bad? He was only implementing Trump’s policy. But this new guy will be even worse. And God only knows who we’ll get after that. I think the only thing that will get Trump’s attention is all the people signing up for disability, applying for food stamps, etc. We’re going around and around in circles. How many more of us will have our lives destroyed come January 2019? How many more will be dead from suicide? I fervently pray everyday for everyone of us to make it through this. I ask you all to please pray for me too. God Bless