How Does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Help With Chronic Pain?


What is acceptance and commitment therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an action-oriented psychotherapy that focuses on accepting life experiences and committing to staying focused on the present moment. Pain, illness, grief, anxiety, sadness and regret are inevitable throughout life. ACT helps individuals accept these hardships and make necessary changes to move forward by developing psychological flexibility. This allows energy to be used for healing in the present, instead of dwelling on emotions, thoughts, and painful experiences. Dealing with chronic pain often involves grieving the loss of a previous chronic-pain-free life. Many people facing chronic pain may benefit from ACT therapy.

How can acceptance and commitment therapy help with chronic pain?

ACT can help individuals with chronic pain experience less anxiety surrounding pain and reduce the amount of effort spent trying to suppress the pain. It also teaches how to spend less time and energy focusing on pain and more time concentrating on living a satisfying and fulfilling life, despite chronic pain. Negative thinking is replaced with necessary behavioral changes that promote positive physical and mental well-being.

Research has shown that ACT can produce a reliable reduction in disabilities due to chronic pain. While ACT may not reduce or eliminate chronic pain, it can make it easier to cope with. It focuses on changing a person’s response to pain rather than changing the pain itself. This can be especially helpful to those experiencing difficulties with pain control.

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