Age moderates response to acceptance and commitment therapy vs. cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2016 Mar;31(3):302-8. doi: 10.1002/gps.4330. Epub 2015 Jul 28.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine age differences in response to different forms of psychotherapy for chronic pain.

Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of 114 adults (ages 18-89 years) with a variety of chronic, nonmalignant pain conditions randomly assigned to 8 weeks of group-administered acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Treatment response was defined as a drop of at least three points on the Brief Pain Inventory-interference subscale.

Results: Older adults were more likely to respond to ACT, and younger adults to CBT, both immediately following treatment and at 6-month follow-up. There were no significant differences in credibility, expectations of positive outcome, attrition, or satisfaction, although there was a trend for the youngest adults (ages 18-45 years) to complete fewer sessions.

Conclusions: These data suggest that ACT may be an effective and acceptable treatment for chronic pain in older adults.

Keywords: chronic pain; mindfulness; psychotherapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Young Adult