Barriers and Facilitators of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for Chronic Pain in Adults: A Systematic Review

Elizabeth S. Goldsmith, Wendy A. Miller, Erin Koffel, Kristen Ullman, Adrienne Landsteiner, Benjamin Stroebel, Jessica Hill, Princess E. Ackland, Timothy J. Wilt, Wei Duan-Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) have demonstrated effectiveness for improving outcomes in chronic pain. These evidence-based psychotherapies (EBPs) remain underutilized in clinical practice, however. To identify research gaps and next steps for improving uptake of EBPs, we conducted a systematic review of patient-, provider-, and system-level barriers and facilitators of their use for chronic pain. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases from inception through September 2022. Prespecified eligibility criteria included outpatient treatment of adults with chronic pain; examination of barriers and facilitators and/or evaluation of implementation strategies; conducted in the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Ireland, Canada or Australia; and publication in English. Two reviewers independently assessed eligibility and rated quality. We conducted a qualitative synthesis of results using a best-fit framework approach building upon domains of the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). We identified 34 eligible studies (33 moderate or high quality), most (n = 28) of which addressed patient-level factors. Shared barriers across EBPs included variable patient buy-in to therapy rationale and competing responsibilities for patients; shared facilitators included positive group or patient-therapist dynamics. Most studies examining ACT and all examining MBSR assessed only group formats. No studies compared barriers, facilitators, or implementation strategies of group CBT to individual CBT, or of telehealth to in-person EBPs. Conceptual mismatches of patient knowledge and beliefs with therapy principles were largely analyzed qualitatively, and studies did not explore how these mismatches were addressed to support engagement. Future research on EBPs for chronic pain in real-world practice settings is needed to explore provider and system-level barriers and facilitators, heterogeneity of effects and uptake, and both effects and uptake of EBPs delivered in various formats, including group vs individual therapy and telehealth or asynchronous digital approaches. Perspective: This systematic review synthesizes evidence on barriers and facilitators to uptake of cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain. Findings can guide future implementation work to increase availability and use of evidence-based psychotherapies for treatment of chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-769
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is funded by the Veterans Health Administration, Health Services Research and Development , Evidence Synthesis Program (#09-009).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • chronic pain
  • evidence synthesis
  • implementation science
  • psychotherapy
  • systematic review

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Journal Article
  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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