Objective: Acceptance and mindfulness-based treatments for chronic pain attempts to alter the impact of pain-related thoughts and feelings on behavior without necessarily changing the thoughts and feelings themselves. A process called "decentering" appears relevant to these treatments because it includes the capacity to observe thoughts and feelings from a detached perspective, as transient events in the mind, that do not necessarily reflect reality or the self. This study examines relations of decentering with other processes related to "psychological flexibility" and the daily functioning of people with chronic pain.
Method: Consecutive adults seeking treatment for chronic pain (N = 150) provided data for the study by completing a set of measures, including a measure of decentering, the Experiences Questionnaire (EQ).
Results: The EQ demonstrated adequate internal consistency reliability, and correlation results supported its validity. Decentering significantly correlated with anxiety, depression, and psychosocial disability. In multiple regression analyses it added a significant increment to explained variance in the prediction of depression and psychosocial disability. Across all measures of functioning, pain acceptance and decentering combined accounted for an average of 23.6% of variance while pain accounted for 2.5%.
Conclusions: People with chronic pain may benefit from the capacity to contact their thoughts and feelings from a perspective as a "separate observer," to see them as transient, and to experience them as cognitively "defused."
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