Introduction Vulvodynia is a condition characterised by persistent vulval pain and includes particular impacts on sexual and emotional functioning. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been successfully applied in persistent pain but has not been tested in this population. This single-case experimental design (SCED) study aimed to evaluate whether an online ACT programme improves clinical outcomes in women with Vulvodynia. We also evaluated whether the intervention led to changes in hypothesised processes of therapeutic change. Methods This study applied a nonconcurrent multiple baseline SCED method to assess ACT in women with Vulvodynia. During baseline and treatment phases, participants completed daily self-report outcomes of pain severity and interference, sexual functioning and satisfaction, depression, and hypothesised process-variables: pain-acceptance, present-moment-awareness, committed-action, perceived injustice, and body-exposure anxiety during sexual activities. Full-length assessments of these variables were also completed before and after treatment. The intervention comprised a six-week online ACT programme, combined with a Vulvodynia-specific manual. Visual and statistical analyses were conducted. Results Seven participants, mostly with mixed Vulvodynia, provided baseline and treatment phase data, and completed the intervention and diaries. Based on the visual inspection, and Tau and Tau-U values as effect sizes from the daily data, all participants showed moderate size improvements in two or more outcomes. However, participants had highly individual treatment effects. Limited improvement was found in depression. Pain-acceptance, committed-action, and perceived injustice also demonstrated change for some participants. Discussion The results suggest online ACT may improve pain and sexual outcomes for some women with Vulvodynia. Pain-acceptance, committed-action, and perceived injustice are highlighted as potential processes of change for some participants. In general, responses to treatment appear highly individual. Further application of the SCED approach to ACT for Vulvodynia is recommended.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This article represents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London in the form of a PhD Studentship for C.C. WS and RMM are also partly funded through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London . The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Genital pain
- Idiographic approach
- Single-case experimental design