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Better Living with Illness

We are very excited to share this protocol with the ACT community! The Better Living with Illness group is an ACT intervention designed for people living with chronic physical illness, to be run over 6 weeks, with 2 follow-up sessions 1 and 3 months post-intervention. Sessions last 2.5 hours, including a half-hour break in the middle. 

This protocol is based on others published here (e.g. chronic pain), but also has some additional elements included that are relevant to this group, such as pacing, assertive communication, goal setting and problem solving skills, delivered in an ACT-consistent way. Its also novel in its transdiagnostic approach: this group was designed to bring people living with different long term physical health conditions together, acknowledging that commonalities that exist across many diagnoses (both physical and mental).

The group has been run in NHS Fife, Scotland for just over 2 years, in a repeated measures controlled trial in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh for a DClinPsy thesis. For the evaluation, we defined chronic physical illness as conditions that had lasted for a minimum of 12 months and required some form of management (e.g. medication). We had 33 participants complete.  The results (n=33 for completers) indicated significant improvements in HADS scores compared to the baseline control period, with similar improvements in measures of valued living (Matthew Smout's VQ measure) and psychological flexibility (AAQ-II). This was in the context of no significant change on perceived health status. These processes were also found to mediate change in HADS scores. We will shortly be submitting a paper for publication on this and will update here with details.

Overall, participants were very positive about the group and their experiences in it, and really valued it.

Please do get in touch if you'd like to know a bit more about this group.

And if you do download and use the protocol, please get in touch with David Gillanders to let him know -

Linsay Brassington


Nuno Ferreira, University of Edinburgh

Shona Yates, NHS Fife

Jackie Fearn, NHS Fife

Pam Lanza, NHS Fife

Kim Kemp, NHS GGC

Hannah Dale, NHS Fife

Mandy Forbes, NHS Tayside

David Gillanders, University of Edinburgh

Publication of the BLI results - Comment submitted by David Gillanders on May 24, 2018 

The journal article that describes the research and evaluation of the Better Living with Illness Protocol in NHS Fife, by the team named above can be found here:

Brassington, L., Ferreira, N. B., Yates, S., Fearn, J., Lanza, P., Kemp, K., & Gillanders, D. (2016). Better living with illness: A transdiagnostic acceptance and commitment therapy group intervention for chronic physical illness. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 5(4), 208–214.

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