New Study: ACT for Chronic Headache Pain

New Study: ACT for Chronic Headache Pain

The Study
In a study recently published in the journal Headache, preliminary evidence was found to support to use of ACT for chronic headache pain.  The study aimed to examine the efficacy of group-based ACT treatment for reducing the experience of pain, disability, and affective distress due to recurrent episodes of headache pain.  The study sample consisted of outpatient Iranian women.
ACT has been validated through numerous studies to date for chronic pain and has been given the highest grade of evidenced-based backing by APA division 12, ‘strong research support’.  While division 12 includes headache pain within the general category if chronic pain, there has been a gap in the literature to date regarding the efficacy of ACT specifically with severe and chronic headache pain.
The results of the study indicated that the addition of 8 weeks of ACT group treatment (in addition to treatment-as-usual) produced significant reductions in disability and affective distress due to pain.  However there were not significant reductions in sensory experience of pain.
What Does This Mean
These findings are consistent with similar studies in that ACT treatment does not tend to reduce pain intensity itself, but rather reduces pain-related disability and affective distress related to how the person copes with the pain. ACT aims to help the person change their relationship with pain, so that they can hold it more gently and spend less time in pain-related rumination. This aspect of ACT is similar to other mindfulness-based interventions, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. In addition to changing one’s relation to pain, another major focus of  ACT is increasing engagement with valued life domains such as work, play, exercise, and flexibly moving on with life even as pain occurs. This aspect is relatively less emphasized in most other mindfulness-based therapies and is a unique contribution of ACT
The Takeaway
The evidence supporting the use of ACT for chronic pain is strong. This study further elaborates the kinds of chronic pain problems that ACT can be applied to, suggesting that ACT might work well in the area of chronic headache pain.

For further information and news on evidenced-based treatment for headache pain, please see the author’s website – Headaches101.com.

UPCOMING TRAINING EVENTS

January 31, 2020, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm · Portland, OR · Details

This workshop is intended to be part 1 of a two day workshop, but can also be taken on its own. This workshop is useful for therapists who want an update on the current clinically applicable research on how shame functions, including an overview of how and when shame tends to be adaptive versus maladaptive. This day has two primary goals: 1. To provide an overview of research on shame and self-criticism that can guide clinical practice and 2. To allow therapists to experience the model from the inside-out so as to develop greater personal self-compassion and a deeper intuitive understanding of compassion-based intervention strategies. Read more

February 1, 2020, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm · Portland, OR · Details

This workshop is intended to be part 2 of a two day workshop, but can also be taken on its own. If you already have a thorough understanding of the functions of shame and a good understanding of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, then it is you will probably be OK taking just the second day of this workshop. The workshop proceeds to discuss how ACT processes can be focused on addressing chronic and pervasive shame-based difficulties, with a particular focus on flexible perspective taking. Demonstrations of how to use perspective taking and compassion-fostering strategies with clients will be provided and attendees will also practice in small groups. An overview of chair work in the context of ACT will be provided. Read more

February 29, 2020, 9:00 am – 12:15 pm · Portland, OR · Details

Exposure is one of most the effective treatments for anxiety, trauma, and obsessive compulsive and related disorders (e.g., OCD, PTSD, panic disorder). A transdiagnostic intervention, exposure involves the repeated and systematic engagement with avoided stimuli that cause anxiety. Unfortunately, exposure remains underutilized by clinicians (e.g., Scherr, Herbert, & Forman, 2015), mostly due to misunderstandings of how exposure works and perceived difficulty of using it with clients. This half-day workshop will address these gaps by drawing from research on enhancing clinician understanding of and ways to overcome barriers to delivering exposure therapy (Farrell et al., 2016). Using didactics, role-play, and experiential exercises, participants will learn flexible application of exposure for a variety of clinical targets. Read more

April 17 and 18, 2020, 9:15 am – 5:00 pm · Portland, OR · Details

Do you ever “get stuck” as a therapist? Do some of your clients press your “hot buttons”? Do you ever find yourself struggling and thinking about “what do I do next” or feeling anxious, scared or stressed in therapy? In this workshop we will work on clarifying your therapist values and defining what is “difficult” about “difficult” clients. Through discussions, demonstrations and roleplays we will then work on these difficult clients and look at the processes from a compassionate ACT perspective. Read more