Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system for which there is no known cure. The condition is associated with a range of physical, psychological, and emotional difficulties and often results in reduced quality of life (QOL). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a newer cognitive-behavior therapy that balances 1) mindfulness and acceptance processes with 2) commitment and behavior change processes in the service of reducing suffering while fostering engagement in value-guided actions. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effectiveness of a half-day ACT workshop focused on teaching mindful acceptance, cognitive defusion, and value-guided action strategies to a group of individuals (N = 15) with MS. The usefulness of the workshop was evaluated in terms of its impact over a 3-month follow-up period on indices of MS-related impairment, emotional distress, and QOL. The results were mixed, with significant improvements observed in the areas of depression, extent of thought suppression, impact of pain on behavior, and QOL but no change in extent of physical symptoms and mindfulness. These results are discussed broadly in terms of developing and improving brief ACT interventions for MS and other chronic illnesses.

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Author notes

From the Department of Psychology, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY, USA. Dr. Hickling is now at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center, Tampa, FL, USA.