Purpose of review: Much confusion has surrounded the purpose of the psychological assessment in the context of chronic pain. For many clinicians, the psychological assessment is used to rule out psychiatric illness and to identify the nonmedical causes for pain and disability. In essence, it is used to identify the causes of pain that fall outside of the biomedical model. Supported by over 30 years of evidence, the bio–psycho–social model acknowledges that psychosocial factors are inherent in chronic pain and require assessment if meaningful diagnostics and treatments are to occur.
Recent findings: Five broad categories of psychosocial assessment are relevant to chronic pain. These categories have been shown to enhance the diagnosis of the underlying forms of pain, predict the transition from acute to chronic status, and help to phenotype individuals for the discovery of the underlying mechanisms responsible for pain.
Summary: Informed assessment of chronic pain needs to include relevant biological, psychological, and social domains. This article describes those domains and offers suggestions of specific instruments to use in clinical or research settings.