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Media Advisory: NIH to host spring lecture series on integrative approaches for addressing pain and mental health

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will present two virtual lectures in spring 2021 as part of its Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series. This season’s theme is “Novel Approaches at the Intersection of Mental Health and Pain,” which captures several NCCIH research interests—nonpharmacologic approaches for managing pain, mental health, behavioral strategies to help treat opioid use disorder, and health promotion and disease prevention.

The upcoming lectures will feature Eric Garland, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., and Alicia Heapy, Ph.D., who will discuss the state of the science and present their innovative NCCIH-supported research.

Healing the Opioid Crisis With Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE): Clinical Efficacy and Neurophysiological Mechanisms
Eric Garland, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., University of Utah
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Noon–1 p.m. ET

This lecture will be streamed live and archived at NIH Videocast and on Facebook Live.

About the Presentation:
Some of our most pressing “diseases of despair,” such as addiction and chronic pain, disrupt the brain’s capacity to experience healthy pleasure and extract meaning from naturally rewarding events and experiences. For example, prolonged opioid use in the context of chronic pain and distress can blunt positive emotions and compel opioid misuse as a way to hold on to a shrinking sense of well-being.

Dr. Garland will describe the development and testing of an integrative nondrug treatment strategy, Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE). This approach unites traditional mindfulness meditation practices with techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy and principles of positive psychology. Rooted in affective neuroscience, MORE is designed to reduce addictive behavior and alleviate physical and emotional pain by restructuring reward processes in the brain. Dr. Garland will present data from multiple clinical trials and neurophysiological experiments demonstrating MORE’s efficacy as a treatment for chronic pain and opioid misuse. Findings suggest that MORE may treat addiction and pain by enhancing the value of the most basic natural rewards, potentially opening a path toward well-being, connection, and meaning in life.

About the Speaker: 
Eric Garland, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., is Distinguished Endowed Chair in Research and professor and associate dean for research at the University of Utah College of Social Work and director of the Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development. Funders of his research include NCCIH, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Department of Defense, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Dr. Garland is also a licensed psychotherapist. He received his Ph.D. (with distinction) in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also conducted postdoctoral work in integrative medicine, and a master’s degree in social work from West Virginia University.

Cooperative Pain Education and Self-Management (COPES): A Technology-Assisted Intervention for Pain
Alicia Heapy, Ph.D., Yale School of Medicine and VA Connecticut Healthcare System
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Noon–1 p.m. ET

The lecture will be streamed live and archived at NIH Videocast and on Facebook Live.

About the Presentation:
Evidence supports behavioral and self-management interventions for people with chronic pain. However, implementation and use of these strategies on a widespread basis has lagged for reasons that include a scarcity of trained therapists, a need for frequent in-person sessions, and patient travel limitations. Technology-based interventions offer a way to address such barriers and improve pain-related outcomes. More knowledge is needed on how to promote uptake of these treatments and implement them more widely, and how they fare in comparison with in-person treatment in real-world settings.

Dr. Heapy will discuss research she is leading on a nondrug pain management intervention, Cooperative Pain Education and Self-Management (COPES)—a technology-based form of cognitive behavioral therapy being tested in the Veterans Health Administration health care system. COPES uses “interactive voice response,” making it possible for chronic pain patients to engage in this treatment remotely. She will also discuss studies—including comparative effectiveness, implementation, and pragmatic trials—on the effectiveness of COPES, as well as lessons learned, factors related to uptake, and facilitators and barriers to implementation of COPES and in-person cognitive behavioral therapy.

About the Speaker: 
Alicia Heapy, Ph.D., is associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and associate director of the Pain Research, Informatics, Multimorbidities, and Education Center, part of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. She is chair of the national Pain Research Working Group, comprising more than 80 Veterans Health Administration, Department of Defense, NIH, and other pain investigators. Her research funders include the Department of Veterans Affairs, NCCIH, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Dr. Heapy received her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in clinical psychology from Purdue University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.

NCCIH’s Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series ( provides overviews of the current state of research and practice involving complementary health approaches and explores perspectives on the emerging discipline of integrative medicine.

Media: For members of the media interested in covering any lectures, please contact the NCCIH press office at 301-496-7790 or


About the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH):
NCCIH’s mission is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health approaches and their roles in improving health and health care. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook , and YouTube.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit