Exposure and acceptance in the rehabilitation of adolescents with idiopathic chronic pain – a pilot study

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APA Citation: 

Wicksell, R. K., Melin, L., & Olsson, G. L. (2007). Exposure and acceptance in the rehabilitation of children and adolescents with chronic pain. European Journal of Pain, 11(3), 267-274.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Conceptual
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
Chronic pain, children, cognitive behaviour therapy, exposure, acceptance, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

For chronic pain of unclear origin (idiopathic), pharmacological therapy is often insufficient. Psychological treatment strategies have been developed and evaluated for adults with chronic pain. However, few such studies are seen with youths, and to date there is limited empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of psychological treatment for generalized musculoskeletal pain syndromes in adolescents. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a development of cognitive behaviour therapy emphasizing exposure and acceptance. In this pilot study, 14 adolescents referred to the Pain Treatment Service due to chronic debilitating pain were treated using an ACT-based approach. It was hypothesized that avoidance of pain and related stimuli was central to the disability seen among these patients, and that exposure and acceptance strategies could increase functioning and decrease pain. In contrast to emphasizing reductions in pain and distress, the treatment objective was to improve functioning by increasing the patient's ability to act in line with personal values in the presence of negative thoughts, emotions or bodily sensations. Following treatment, and retained at 3 and 6-month follow-up, improvements in functional ability, school attendance, catastrophizing and pain (i.e. intensity and interference) were seen. The outcome of this pilot study indicates that exposure and acceptance can been useful in the rehabilitation of adolescents with chronic debilitating pain. Randomized controlled studies are needed to empirically evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.

Open trial with 14 adolescents. Good outcomes that continue to improve through follow up.
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