The Use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Oncology Settings: A Narrative Review

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Abstract

Various psychotherapeutic approaches have been developed to address the psychosocial stressors and distress associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment. One such approach, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), may be particularly well suited to people with cancer as it offers a model of healthy adaptation to difficult circumstances. This paper provides a description and theoretical rationale for using ACT in psychosocial oncology care that emphasizes emotional distress and cancer-related pain and provides a narrative review of the current state of evidence for this setting. Six studies met eligibility criteria for inclusion in the review. The research designs included one case study, three pre-post cohort studies, and two randomized controlled trials. Cancer diagnoses of patients included breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer, and mixed cancer populations at various stages of disease progression or recovery. ACT interventions demonstrated significant improvements in symptoms including quality of life and psychological flexibility as well as reductions in symptoms including distress, emotional disturbances, physical pain, and traumatic responses. Overall, although there is limited published research currently available, there is some evidence to support ACT as an effective psychotherapeutic approach for cancer patients. Further research is needed for different cancer populations across the illness trajectory. Barriers to implementation are discussed.

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