Associate Professor Claire Ashton-James
Social Psychologist, The University of Sydney Medical School, Australia
Dr Claire Ashton-James, PhD, is a Social Psychologist and Associate Professor of Pain Management at The University of Sydney Medical School. Over the course of her international career, Dr Ashton-James has been lucky to have worked with and learned from some of the world’s leading experts in social cognition and behaviour, psychological wellbeing, emotion, and pain. Drawing on her relatively unique scientific training, Dr Ashton-James brings a novel “social” perspective to pain research and management. Her research investigates the impact of a person’s social history and current context on their experience of pain and responsiveness to pain treatments. She is currently a Chief Investigator on over 5 million dollars of collaborative research which broadly aims to address social vulnerabilities in the management of acute and chronic pain. Dr Ashton-James is also a passionate educator and consumer advocate. She teaches communication skills in the disciplines of medicine, pharmacy, and physiotherapy at The University of Sydney, is an academic director of research training in the Faculty of Medicine and Health, and is the Chair of Consumer and Community Engagement for the Sydney Musculoskeletal Health Flagship Research Centre. In all roles, her mission is the same: to empower clinicians to provide whole-person care which directly addresses the social context in which people became sick and are currently receiving treatment.
Addressing Social Aspects of Pain in Practice: Challenges and Opportunities
The biopsychosocial model of pain, together with more than 50 years of empirical research, points to the important role of social factors in the development and maintenance of pain, as well as responsiveness to treatment. Yet, clinicians are rarely provided with skills or training to assess and address social contributors to pain in practice. In addition, there may be individual, social, and structural barriers to addressing social contributors to pain. However, there is no doubt similar barriers to addressing psychological contributors to pain in practice, and yet, the field of pain management has slowly but surely embraced this change. This presentation will illuminate a path towards increasing clinician engagement with social aspects of pain in practice by describing strategies for evaluating the contribution of patients’ social context to their experience of pain, measures for assessing the extent to which our current pain treatments address patients’ social relationship quality and participation in social life, and simple, practical ways in which healthcare providers from any discipline of health can mitigate the impact of social vulnerabilities on pain outcomes.