Justine Owens

Owens, Justine E.

Primary Appointment

Internal Medicine


  • PhD, Psychology, Stanford University
  • Postdoc, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford Medical School

Contact Information

Telephone: 434-243-9272
Email: jeo8n@virginia.edu

Research Interests

The psychological and spiritual factors in health, particularly the psychological processes of self-regulation and healing in integrative medical care

Research Description

The general aim of my research is to investigate the healing power of consciousness and psychological factors in health and well-being. For example, mindfulness training and contemplative practices are powerful tools that promote balance, improve quality of life and alleviate suffering. In collaboration with John Dent, I investigated the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes (MBSR) for the treatment of palpitations, finding MBSR to be an effective therapy. We looked at the relationship of heart palpitations and heart rate variability (HRV) and our study suggests that physiological changes in HRV patterns are associated with mindful regulation of heart palpitations.

In a similar vein, I am currently looking at HRV patterns associated with contemplative states. I have conducted studies on the so-called “placebo response”, contributing to the effort of unpacking this complex array of psycho-physiological phenomena. My model of placebo responding combines an expectancy factor and an individual difference factor to account for “non-specific treatment effects”, in the context of placebo-controlled clinical trials. The same model can be used to account for heterogeneity of health care outcomes in general. Positive expectancy and self-regulation skills are a powerful combination in promoting health and well-being and integrative therapies embrace and support the self-healing states at the heart of placebo responding.

My study of chronic pain patients “living well with pain” illustrates the use of integrative therapies, gratitude, and spiritual practice in health and well-being. We found evidence for personal growth and wisdom associated with healing experiences in long-standing chronic conditions.

Selected Publications