Beth Darnall, PhD is Director of the Stanford Pain Relief Innovations Lab. She leads NIH and PCORI-funded clinical trials that broadly investigate behavioral medicine for acute and chronic pain, including $19M in research funding from the Patient Centered Research Outcomes Institute (PCORI). She serves as faculty mentor to junior investigators who are Stanford Pain NIDA T-32 post-doctoral research fellows, NIDA K23 awardees, and through the Stanford CTSA. In 2021 she received a K24 research and mentoring award from NIDA. 

Her primary interests are developing and investigating novel pain treatments that are scalable, effective, and low burden. She is creator of “Empowered Relief,” a single-session evidence-based pain management intervention, and principal investigator for a 6-site $10.3M national randomized comparative effectiveness trial of online “Empowered Relief” vs. online 8-session Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in diverse patients and pain conditions in the U.S. (funded by PCORI; 2022-2027). She and her team provide international clinician certification workshops for “Empowered Relief” ( “Empowered Relief” is delivered in 12 countries, 6 languages, and is the subject of international research. In 2021, results for an NIH-funded randomized trial of “Empowered Relief” published in JAMA Network Open. Also in 2021 a second randomized trial of online-received “Empowered Relief” showed efficacy in mixed-etiology chronic pain 3 months after treatment (Ziadni et al). Digital analgesic innovations include on-demand, skills-based, self-regulatory treatment for perioperative patients (“My Surgical Success”), and virtual reality for acute and chronic pain (she is chief science advisor at AppliedVR). The broad goal of this collective line of research is to dismantle barriers to effective behavioral medicine for pain and health. 

She leads the PCORI-funded EMPOWER study, a 7-site (5-state) pragmatic randomized controlled clinical trial that is investigating how to best help physicians and patients successfully, safely, and voluntarily reduce long term opioid use and chronic pain using patient-centered methods. EMPOWER is a 3-arm RCT comparative effectiveness trial of two evidence-based behavioral treatments, cognitive behavioral therapy for pain and chronic pain self-management, applied within the context of patient-centered opioid tapering (N=1365). This research builds on the team’s first report on “Patient-Centered Prescription Opioid Tapering in Community Outpatients with Chronic Pain” (Darnall et al, JAMA Int Med, 2018). Learn more about the EMPOWER study at 

Darnall twice briefed the U.S. Congress on the opioid and pain crises, and provided invited testimony to the FDA on iatrogenic harms associated with opioid tapering. In 2020 she joined the NIH Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee as a scientific member. From 2020-2021 she served as a scientific member of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Opioid Workgroup of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (BSC/NCIPC). 

Her work has been featured in outlets such as The New York Times, Scientific American, NPR Radio, BBC Radio, and Nature. In 2018 she spoke on the psychology of pain relief at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.