A feasibility study of brief group-based acceptance and commitment therapy for chronic pain in general practice: recruitment, attendance, and patient views

Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2014 Jul;15(3):312-23. doi: 10.1017/S1463423613000273. Epub 2013 Jul 19.


Background: Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, may help meet a need for accessible and cost-effective treatments for chronic pain. ACT has a growing evidence base, but has not yet been tested within general practice settings.

Aim: The purpose of the present study was to examine the feasibility of conducting a full-scale randomized controlled trial of ACT in general practice.

Methods: A total of 481 potential participants with chronic pain identified from general practice in southwest England were invited into a treatment trial. Subsequently, 102 (21.2%) of those invited were screened, and 73 (71.6%) of those screened were allocated to ACT plus usual care or usual care alone. The ACT treatment included four, four-hour group-based sessions over two weeks.

Results: Twenty-six (70.3%) of the patients allocated to ACT attended three or four sessions. Those who received ACT rated it as credible in a short survey, with Mdn rating 7.0 on a 0-10 scale, across five credibility items. During a post-treatment interview considering 12 aspects of the study from invitation to treatment termination, a median of 79.2% of participants rated the aspects 'acceptable.' Qualitative data from the interviews showed a mixed picture of patient experiences, revealing possible tensions between patients' wishes to avoid discomfort and confusion, and treatment methods that explicitly ask patients to, in essence, 'live with' some discomfort and confusion.

Conclusions: These data suggest that further study of ACT, as a treatment for chronic pain, is feasible in general practice and it may be possible to further optimize the treatment experience.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy / economics
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy / methods
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy / organization & administration*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Pain / economics
  • Chronic Pain / psychology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • England
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • General Practice / economics
  • General Practice / methods
  • General Practice / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Psychotherapy, Group / economics
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Psychotherapy, Group / organization & administration*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult