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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for women living with Vulvodynia: A single-case experimental design study of a treatment delivered online (Pages 15-30)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Volume 23, January 2022, Pages 15-30


Claudia Chisari, Lance M. McCracken, Federico Cruciani, Rona Moss-Morris, Whitney Scott



Vulvodynia is a condition characterised by persistent vulval pain and includes particular impacts on sexual and emotional functioning. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been successfully applied in persistent pain but has not been tested in this population. This single-case experimental design (SCED) study aimed to evaluate whether an online ACT programme improves clinical outcomes in women with Vulvodynia. We also evaluated whether the intervention led to changes in hypothesised processes of therapeutic change.


This study applied a nonconcurrent multiple baseline SCED method to assess ACT in women with Vulvodynia. During baseline and treatment phases, participants completed daily self-report outcomes of pain severity and interference, sexual functioning and satisfaction, depression, and hypothesised process-variables: pain-acceptance, present-moment-awareness, committed-action, perceived injustice, and body-exposure anxiety during sexual activities. Full-length assessments of these variables were also completed before and after treatment. The intervention comprised a six-week online ACT programme, combined with a Vulvodynia-specific manual. Visual and statistical analyses were conducted.


Seven participants, mostly with mixed Vulvodynia, provided baseline and treatment phase data, and completed the intervention and diaries. Based on the visual inspection, and Tau and Tau-U values as effect sizes from the daily data, all participants showed moderate size improvements in two or more outcomes. However, participants had highly individual treatment effects. Limited improvement was found in depression. Pain-acceptance, committed-action, and perceived injustice also demonstrated change for some participants.


The results suggest online ACT may improve pain and sexual outcomes for some women with Vulvodynia. Pain-acceptance, committed-action, and perceived injustice are highlighted as potential processes of change for some participants. In general, responses to treatment appear highly individual. Further application of the SCED approach to ACT for Vulvodynia is recommended.

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