When faced with the problem of pain one can attempt a solution aimed at relief (assimilation) or a solution aimed at acceptance (accommodation). Using this dual process model of adaptation to pain, this study compares acute and chronic pain patients on their approach to problem solving. Three hundred and sixty-four patients were recruited from clinical settings. 303 with chronic pain and 61 with acute pain, and completed a range of measures of both affect and pain-related behavior, including the Pain Solutions Questionnaire. The effects of overall duration of pain were also investigated. Chronic pain patients reported greater disability and catastrophic thinking about pain than acute pain patients, and assimilative coping was associated with greater disability, greater attention to pain, and more catastrophic thinking about pain, beyond the effects of demographic variables and pain severity. Pain duration did not moderate these associations. Only in the case of catastrophic thinking about pain was it found that the effects of assimilative coping were moderated by pain duration. For chronic pain patients. catastrophic thinking about pain was greater when assimilative coping was higher. These results are discussed within the context of a goal directed motivational model of adaptation to chronic pain. (C) 2007 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.