A Qualitative Service Evaluation of the Usefulness of a Group Based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Programme for Chronic Pain
Harrison, Melissa Banou
Background In recent years Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has gained increasing status as a promising approach to treating chronic pain physical functioning and psychological well-being. The basic premise of ACT as applied to chronic pain is that while pain hurts, it is the struggle with pain that causes suffering. This approach aims to restore effective and adaptive functioning for an individual within a context of continuing pain so that the individual can live a more vital and meaningful life. There is a growing empirical support for the effectiveness of ACT however research has relied on self-reported quantitative outcomes, focused on addressing changes in pain intensity and the physical and psychological impact of chronic pain. There appears to be a gap in the literature on the exploration of the experience of attending an ACT programme for chronic pain from the patient’s perspective. Aim This study sought to explore the experience of attending an ACT programme for chronic pain within an outpatient NHS hospital setting. Furthermore the study sought to explore the modulating factors influencing clients learning and understanding of the construct of acceptance from the perspective of the participants. Additionally, the experience of attending a group based ACT intervention was explored. Methodology A qualitative methodology was chosen for the project. The study used a purposive sample of twelve participants, who had all attended the Luton & Dunstable Hospital ACT 8 week outpatient programme for chronic pain. The participants were interviewed through the use of a semi structured interviews, and the transcripts were transcribed and then analysed using Thematic Analysis. Identified themes were further organised using the tool of Thematic Network Analysis. Results Three global themes emerged from the analysis of the data. The first global theme encompassed the participant’s pre-programme expectations and this theme highlighted the participant’s feelings of hope and hopelessness prior to attending the programme. The second global theme demonstrated the on-going process of living with chronic pain and highlighted the benefits and barriers to adopting and ACT based approach to chronic pain. Finally the third global theme addressed the experience of a group based intervention and included the positive and negative aspects of this experience for the participants. Clinical Implications & Conclusion Based on the results of this study a number of clinical implications were highlighted in relation to the future development of ACT programmes for chronic pain. These included suggestions in relation to engaging participants in such programmes. Notably, timing issues, validation of physical symptoms, and consideration of the potential barriers to acceptance and understanding of the benefits of adopting and ACT group based pain management approach were discussed.