The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) invites you to join us this spring for exciting lectures on the theme of “Novel Approaches at the Intersection of Mental Health and Pain.” These virtual talks, part of our Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series will take place on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, and Tuesday, June 8, 2021. The lectures, rescheduled from spring 2020, will be streamed live on NIH VideoCast.
May 4 Lecture Featuring Eric Garland, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
On Tuesday, May 4 from noon to 1 p.m. ET, Eric Garland, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., will present “Healing the Opioid Crisis with Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE): Clinical Efficacy and Neurophysiological Mechanisms.” Dr. Garland is 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 (C-MIIND).
Dr. Garland notes that 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. Prolonged opioid use, for example, in the context of chronic pain and distress can blunt positive emotions and compel opioid misuse as a way to hold on to the shrinking sense of well-being. Dr. Garland will describe development and testing of MORE, an integrative treatment strategy.
In anticipation of the lecture, the Blog Team asked Dr. Garland a couple of questions.
1) What are the building blocks of MORE?
Dr. Garland: MORE unites complementary aspects of training in several skill areas:
- Mindfulness skills enhance self-awareness, alleviate pain, and strengthen self-control over automatic, addictive habits.
- Reappraisal skills facilitate reframing of adverse life events as a potential source of psychological growth.
- Savoring skills increase a healthy sense of pleasure, joy, and meaning in life and elicit experiences of self-transcendence—the sense of being connected to something greater than oneself.
2) What are some of the insights from affective neuroscience that inform MORE?
Dr. Garland: First, the brain’s reward system computes the relative value of competing rewards. As addiction progresses, the brain’s reward system changes to become more sensitive to drug-related rewards and less sensitive to natural, healthy pleasures. MORE incorporates mindfulness, reappraisal, and savoring skills to reverse this process. A second fundamental insight is that the brain constructs the pain experience from bodily signals. In MORE, we teach patients to use mindfulness to view their chronic pain as harmless sensory information, not a threat to bodily well-being. This approach reduces the emotional suffering associated with pain, which in turn can decrease the severity of pain.