Introducing acceptance and commitment therapy to a physiotherapy-led pain rehabilitation programme: An action research study

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APA Citation: 

Barker, K. L., Heelas, L., & Toye, F. (2016). Introducing acceptance and commitment therapy to a physiotherapy-led pain rehabilitation programme: An action research study. British Journal of Pain, 10, 22-28. doi:10.1177/2049463715587117

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
Article
Language: 
English
Keyword(s): 
Action Research, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Physiotherapy, Pain rehabilitation, Pain management, Chronic pain, Pain Clinics
Abstract: 

Background: Recent developments in pain rehabilitation emphasise the importance of promoting psychological flexibility. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is one approach that has been shown to be effective for the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain. However, studies have shown that introducing innovative approaches such as ACT into established health care can cause some anxiety for professional groups. We used Action Research to evaluate the implementation of ACT to a physiotherapy-led pain rehabilitation programme.

Methods: All staff in the pain service were invited to participate. Participants took part in focus groups, engaged in reflective sessions/meetings and completed reflective diaries. The analysis was undertaken by an experienced qualitative researcher using constant comparison. Participants reviewed emerging themes and validated the findings.

Results: Four key themes emerged from the study: (a) the need to see pain as an embodied, rather than dualistic, experience; (b) the need for a more therapeutic construction of ‘acceptance’; (c) value-based goals as profound motivation for positive change; and (d) it’s quite a long way from physiotherapy. Integral to a therapeutic definition of acceptance was the challenge of moving away from ‘fixing’ towards ‘sitting with’. Participants described this as uncomfortable because it did not fit their biomedical training.

Conclusion: This article describes how Action Research methodology was used in the introduction of ACT to a physiotherapy-led pain rehabilitation programme. The innovation of this study is that it helps us to understand the potential barriers and facilitators to embedding an ACT philosophy within a physiotherapy setting.