Personal Values and Pain Tolerance: Does a Values Intervention Add to Acceptance?


Previous research suggests that acceptance is a promising alternative to distraction and control techniques in successfully coping with pain. Acceptance interventions based upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) have been shown to lead to greater tolerance of acute pain as well as increased adjustment and less disability among individuals with chronic pain. However, in these previous intervention studies, the ACT component of values has either not been included or not specifically evaluated. The current study compares the effects of an ACT-based acceptance intervention with and without the values component among individuals completing the cold-pressor task. Results indicate that inclusion of the values component (n = 34) of ACT leads to significantly greater pain tolerance than acceptance alone (n = 30). Consistent with previous research, both conditions were associated with greater pain tolerance than control (n = 35). Despite the difference in tolerance, pain threshold did not differ, and participants in the control condition provided lower ratings of pain severity. The findings from this study support the important role of values and values clarification in acceptance-based interventions such as ACT, and provide direction for clinicians working with individuals with chronic pain conditions. Perspective: This article evaluates the additive effect of including a personalized-values exercise in an acceptance-based treatment for pain. Results indicate that values interventions make a significant contribution and improvement to acceptance interventions, which may be of interest to clinicians who provide psychological treatment to individuals with chronic pain.



Document Type





acceptance, ACT, cold pressor, pain tolerance, Psychological, values

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Pain