Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Kids, and Chronic Pain

A GoodTherapy.org News Update

Chronic physical pain with no known source is a problem that affects millions of Americans, wreaking havoc on professional and personal lives and in many cases, paving the way to depression. It seems unfortunate that those who suffer from chronic pain must do so without understanding why they hurt, nor how they can help alleviate the symptoms. This is especially true in the case of children afflicted with chronic pain. Whether it’s a specific body part or generalized aching, some children experience daily difficulties with activities as simple as walking or laying down. There are scores of pain medications on the modern market, but many of these are not suitable for youths, and carry the possibility for long-term drug dependency.

Bringing hope to the situation, a team of researchers from the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm has recently published an evaluation of cognitive behavioral therapy as a treatment for children experiencing chronic pain. Specifically, the researchers employed ACT, or acceptance and commitment therapy, in which the young patients were given tools to come to terms with their pain and move past it in order to achieve a set of goals. The study was composed of two groups of sixteen youths ranging between 10 and 18 years of age. The study group was given ten weeks of the specialized ACT therapy, while the control group received a similar regimen of “typical” talk therapy along with prescription medication. Remarkably, those patients who participated in the specialized therapy reported lowered intensity of pain and a higher daily functionality than those given the traditional treatment. The results suggest that relief for chronic pain sufferers both young and old may be possible without addictive or debilitating medications; a triumph for the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • ammie

    ammie

    April 2nd, 2009 at 2:42 AM

    This was very interesting to know. I’m glad to hear there is therapy out there to help these children.

  • Bonnie

    Bonnie

    April 2nd, 2009 at 4:27 PM

    First of all I guess I have to say that I am stunned to learn that there are children out there suffering from afflictions such as this. I always thought that ailments like fibromyalgia or chronic pain only applied to the adult population. So I too am glad to hear that there are some promising things that can be done in this spectrum that does not always mean more medications for these children. Where do symptoms like these arise from? Are they typically part of another disease that compounds that pain or is this something that is freestanding and found alone and completely on its own? That must be difficult to understand as a kid or even as a parent, as you probably want to know how to get to the root of things and fix it. I know that in cases like these that would not necessarily be an option.

  • Gabriel

    Gabriel

    April 2nd, 2009 at 8:08 PM

    I think for children with muscular dystrophy, this is particularly true. It makes a lot of things difficult for both the parents and the child. It is nice that so many things can be done through therapy to help these helpless people.

  • Tim

    Tim

    April 2nd, 2009 at 8:17 PM

    I am curious to know if this is advised for children with cerebral palsy? If so how do they achieve it.

  • Shirley

    Shirley

    April 3rd, 2009 at 2:38 AM

    You see adults go through this, or I do, but you don’t really expect it in children. It’s hard to see a child go through so much pain and not much be done about it. I am really happy to see there is help and maybe other alternatives to help these children

  • Pam

    Pam

    April 4th, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    I am always pleased to learn about new therapies which are non invasive and help to get the mind to a healthier place. I think this is the key to overall happiness. How much easier it is to keep your house in order when you are in the right emotional state of mind!

  • Lanna

    Lanna

    April 5th, 2009 at 10:40 AM

    I agree with Pam in that the key to happiness is to go deeper to get to that right state of mind and push through with help and therapies that will actually help these children

  • Danielle

    Danielle

    April 6th, 2009 at 3:11 PM

    I do not know how I would deal if I had a child of my own that I had to witness in such pain day after day. I do not know how the parents of children like this function because I think I would go through life feeling guilty that I could not take that pain away for them. I feel so blessed that my family is all healthy and happy but I have to take a step back for a moment and face the knowledge that all of this could totally change in the blink of an eye. Makes me give pause and consider that I should take more time out of my day every single day to give thanks for all that I have.

  • Rachel

    Rachel

    April 7th, 2009 at 8:24 AM

    I agree with Danielle, I wouldn’t know what I would do or how i would feel, but it really makes us appreciate the families we have that are healthy. And a lot of these children, especially the ones at St. Judes look as if they always have a smile on their face and really handling it well. These are some brave and strong children.

  • Michella

    Michella

    April 8th, 2009 at 2:27 AM

    I have seen the children of St. Judes’s on TV that Rachel is talking about. They look as if they have accepted their pain and illness, but I know deep down they are in pain and wish it could stop. That’s why I think we need to find more help and cures for these children;

  • Flo

    Flo

    April 10th, 2009 at 5:00 PM

    I hate to see anyone in pain, especially little children. Hopefully there will be more cures and more solutions found to help not just children but adults as well.

  • Mike

    Mike

    April 14th, 2009 at 3:48 AM

    For children going through a terrible experience like this I think it is also important that parents take part in a little therapy too so that they can be given the ways to help relieve some of this pressure on the kids. Give them ways to help soothe their children when they hurt and offer them resources for outreach and help because they all are going to need that.

  • Fred

    Fred

    April 30th, 2009 at 2:51 AM

    I think a lot of therapists nowadays involve the primary caregiver for a child in chronic pain.

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