Afton Hassett, Psy.D.

Associate Professor, Anesthesiology
Clinical Psychologist, Anesthesiology
Director, Clinical Pain Research


Afton Hassett is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Michigan. She received her BFA from Colorado State University and her doctorate from Alliant International University in San Diego, CA. As a principal investigator at the Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center, she conducts interdisciplinary research related to exploring the role of cognitive, affective and behavioral factors in chronic pain populations. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and is a leader in the field of resilience and pain research. Her work has focused on exploring positive emotions and affective balance in people with pain; health-related quality of life in adult and pediatric rheumatology patients; and novel interventions to promote resilience and self-management for individuals with chronic pain. Her most exciting and innovative positive health research involves developing resilience-enhancing activities to promote well-being and the sparing of premature cellular aging in patients with chronic pain (telomere research), as well as developing scalable “prehabilitation” programs for surgical patients to try before surgery to optimize post-surgical outcomes including sparing opioid use. She is committed to education for individuals at many levels including patients, undergraduate and graduate students, medical residents, post-docs, physicians and other health care providers. Dr. Hassett is the Director of Clinical Pain Research at the Back & Pain Center and the Past President of the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals – a division of the American College of Rheumatology. Current funding sources include National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the University of Michigan. 


Areas of Interest

  • Exploring the relationship between centralized pain states and psychosocial factors in terms of pathophysiology and clinical implications.
  • Evaluating in such chronic pain conditions the role of psychological risk and protective factors in the manifestation and mediation of symptoms. Particular focus is on resilience factors such as positive affect and its relationship to pain.
  • Developing and testing innovative adjunctive treatments for decreasing risk factors, enhancing protective factors. Such interventions target patient self-management and building resilience (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy delivered using e-Health, “Prehabilitation” interventions for surgical patient populations and positive affect enhancing strategies such as The Positive Piggy Bank).
  • Conducting outcomes measure development research focusing on creating tools for phenotyping centralized pain and the evaluation of resilience and quality of life.

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