Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #20

Pain Willingness and Commitment to Valued Living in Chronic Pain

Saturday, May 25, 2019
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom AB
Area: CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Jeannie A. Golden, Ph.D.
Chair: Amy Murrell (University of North Texas)
KEVIN VOWLES (University of New Mexico)
Kevin completed his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at West Virginia University in 2004 and post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia the following year. From 2005 to 2012, he held joint positions in academia and with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. He has been on faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico since 2012, where he is currently an Associate Professor. His clinical and academic activities have focused on the assessment and effective rehabilitation of individuals with chronic pain. He has published over 80 scientific articles in these areas since 2002, with recent work concentrating on identifying the characteristics of effective treatment and differentiating problematic from non-problematic opioid and alcohol use in those with chronic pain.

Behavioral treatments for chronic pain have amassed an impressive and progressive record of success. As with any area of clinical science, challenges and shortcomings have also been identified. These include difficulties in maintaining clinical effectiveness from clinical trials into large scale implementation efforts, unclear identification of specific intervention components that are clearly linked to improved adaptive outcomes, and lack of clarity with regard to the necessary and active ingredients of effective treatment. Overall, these problems highlight the practical difficulty of translating research into practice. They also helpfully illuminate several potential avenues for improvement, including the need for: (1) a precise delineation of what constitutes treatment success and differentiates it from treatment failure, (2) lucidity in the specification of processes by which treatment is hypothesized to work followed by explicit tests of these hypotheses, and (3) methods to promote the generalization and continuance of within-treatment adaptive behavioral changes to the non-treatment environment. This presentation will describe Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as one potential model that can aid in helpfully progressing down these avenues. In particular, the potential for augmenting patient behavior that displays an open, accepting, and non-struggling response to pain will be highlighted, as this area perhaps differs most markedly from other approaches where a primary focus may be on better management of pain and distress. Furthermore, the importance of identifying important and meaningful areas of living to pursue with pain present will be evaluated, as this has the potential to naturally promote generalization and longevity of treatment gains. Based on the data presented, it seems feasible for individuals with complex and potentially disabling pain to respond to that pain with acceptance and willingness, choose important areas of living that are of personal relevance, and take effective action to improve quality of life. Importantly, these responses are possible when pain is low, but crucially also when pain is elevated or even at its maximum.

Target Audience:

Clinicians and researchers working with chronic physical health conditions or who are interested in such conditions.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe the relevance of behavioral approaches to the treatment of chronic pain; (2) identify key strengths of this literature and some of the key shortcomings; (3) explain the key treatment processes of the ACT model, the data supporting them, and their applicability to chronic pain treatments; (4) describe treatment outcomes for ACT in relation to both single-subject and within-group data.



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