A team of researchers has suggested that acceptance and commitment therapy for eight-weeks can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in chronic pain patients.
According to researchers, the therapy, a form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that focuses on psychological flexibility and behaviour change, provided a significant reduction in self-reported depression and anxiety among patients participating in a pain rehabilitation programme.
This treatment also resulted in significant increases in self-efficacy, activity engagement and pain acceptance.
Lead author Dr. Noirin Nealon Lennox from Ulster University in Northern Ireland said to further validate the role of ACT in the treatment of chronic pain, specifically in a rheumatology context, a randomised controlled clinical trial would be desirable. ACT is a form of CBT that includes a specific therapeutic process referred to as “psychological flexibility”.
ACT focuses on behaviour change consistent with patients’ core values rather than targeting symptom reduction alone. To assess the potential benefits of an eight-week programme of group Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in people with persistent pain, measures of pain acceptance and activity engagement were taken using the Chronic Pain Acceptance Questionnaire.
The measures of psychological distress using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and self-efficacy were also taken at assessment, on the final day of the programme, and at the follow up six-month review.
There were statistically significant improvements in all parameters between baseline and at six-months follow-up, including the change in mean score of depression, anxiety, self-efficacy, activity engagement and pain willingness.
In this study, patients were referred into the ACT programme by three consultant rheumatologists over a five-year period. Over one hundred patients’ outcome measures were available for a retrospective analysis.
The study was presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR) 2017.