Rationale and design of a pilot study examining Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for persistent pain in an integrated primary care clinic

Kathryn E. Kanzler, Patricia J. Robinson, Donald D. McGeary, Jim Mintz, Jennifer Sharpe Potter, Mariana Muñante, Eliot J. Lopez, Donald M. Dougherty, Willie J. Hale, Dawn I. Velligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Most of the 100 million Americans with persistent pain are treated in primary care clinics, but evidence-based psychosocial approaches targeting pain-related disability are not usually provided in these settings. This manuscript describes the rationale and methods for a protocol to pilot test the feasibility and effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an evidence-based psychological treatment for persistent pain, delivered by a Behavioral Health Consultant in primary care. Eligible patients are identified through electronic health record registries and invited to participate via secure messaging, letters and a follow-up phone call. Participants are also recruited with advertising and clinician referral. Patients agreeing to participate are consented and complete initial assessments, with a target of 60 participants. Randomization is stratified based on pain severity with participants assigned to either ACT or Enhanced Treatment as Usual (E-TAU). ACT participants receive one standardized Behavioral Health Consultation visit followed by three ACT-based group visits and one group booster visit. All patients attend six assessment visits, during which the E-TAU patients are provided with educational pain management handouts based on standard cognitive behavioral treatment of pain. The study aims to determine feasibility and effectiveness of brief ACT for persistent pain delivered by an integrated behavioral health clinician in primary care from pre- to post-treatment, and to examine mechanisms of change in ACT participants. This study, in a “real-world” setting, will lay groundwork for a larger trial. If effective, it could improve treatment methods and quality of life for patients with persistent pain using a scalable approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-35
Number of pages8
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Integrated behavioral health
  • Persistent pain
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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