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ACT Workshop Shows Promise for Veterans With TBI, Distress, and Pain

A day-long Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) workshop tailored to US military veterans with mild traumatic brain injury, psychological distress, and pain showed therapeutic promise in a pilot study published in the journal Contemporary Clinical Trials.

“Preliminary results support the feasibility, acceptability, and promising effects on psychological distress and community reintegration of this 1-day, transdiagnostic workshop for veterans,” researchers wrote.

The psychotherapeutic ACT on Life workshop included veterans returning from Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn with mild traumatic brain injury, stress-based psychopathology, and chronic pain. 

In phase 1 of the study, experts developed and then refined the ACT workshop for veterans using qualitative feedback provided by 11 veteran participants 2 weeks and 3 months after taking the workshop.

In phase II, researchers randomized 20 veterans to attend the revised ACT workshop and 12 veterans to treatment as usual and evaluated outcomes using a variety of quantitative measures, such as the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist, Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale, Military-to-Civilian Questionnaire, and Brief Pain Inventory.

Participants deemed the workshop acceptable, innovative, and useful, according to the study. 

In phase II, veterans randomized to the ACT workshop showed improvement in psychiatric symptoms, functioning, and reintegration 3 months after participation compared with those who received treatment as usual. However, veterans who underwent the ACT intervention also had higher pain interference at follow-up compared with those who underwent usual care—a finding researchers did not anticipate.

“Future research examining the effectiveness of this workshop with a larger sample size is necessary,” they concluded. —Jolynn Tumolo

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