Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for parents, families and youth

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Recently, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been receiving more attention in clinical practice and research. The main purpose of ACT is to promote psychological flexibility, a mechanism which can be defined as an individual’s acceptance of negative feelings, thoughts and physical sensations and the ability to choose an adaptive (and more effective) response.

ACT was originally developed to treat adults, is focused on individual problems and is often employed as a prevention program. Less is known about the effects of ACT in parents, adolescents and young adults.

At Utrecht University, we investigate the effects of ACT in two target groups. First, we investigate the (cost)effectiveness of ACT your way in transitional-age youth (youth aged 15 to 25 years; TAY). Second, we study the effects of ACT as a parent counseling therapy (ACTief opvoeden).

ACT in transitional-age youth

We conducted a pilot study to investigate the preliminary effects of ACT your way in TAY with a depressive disorder. In addition, in June 2021, we started a large Randomized Controlled Trial to investigate the (cost)effectiveness of ACT your way as a transdiagnostic intervention in TAY.

Pilot study ACT your way in TAY with a depressive disorder

The effects of ACT your way has recently been examined in a pilot study with 23 TAY (aged 15 to 25) with recurrent or chronic depression, who have received cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) previously. Directly after ACT, 76.2% of the TAY did not meet the criteria for a depressive disorder anymore. Moreover, participants reported significant improvements in their depressive symptoms, quality of life and competence. Furthermore, six months after ACT, the TAY reported improvements in their depressive symptoms and other internalizing problems.

Effectiveness ACT your way as a transdiagnostic intervention:

TAY has recently been identified as a group in need of especial attention in mental health services. Studies show that psychological problems are most common in this age range (15-25). So an effective treatment for this specific age group seems warranted. ACT your way is an intervention specifically developed for TAY with psychological problems. ACT your way is based on the principles of ACT. The focus of ACT is not on reducing symptoms, but on increasing psychological flexibility and quality of life.

The main goal of the current study is to examine the (cost-)effectiveness of ACT your way, by comparing ACT your way with treatment as usual (TAU) in 134 TAY with various psychopathology (including chronic, comorbid and recurrent diagnoses). In addition, we will examine for whom the intervention is effective (moderators) and how the intervention works (mediators). We expect ACT your way to be more effective and cost-effective compared to TAU. Besides we expect that ACT your way will lead to better treatment alliance, less drop-out and more treatment satisfaction.

In addition to this main study, focusing on ACT you way as a (face-to-face) intervention, we will also conduct two smaller pilot studies to investigate the potential effectiveness of ACT your way as a preventive- and e-mental health intervention.

ACT in parents

The effects of ACT as a parent counseling therapy (ACTief opvoeden) were investigated in a pilot study with 101 parents of children (aged 3-18 years) with psychological problems. Directly after ACT, parents reported improvements in their psychological flexibility, parenting behaviors (except behavioral control), parent-child relations, parental competence, and internalizing problems. Moreover, six months after ACT, parents reported higher levels of parental competence, fewer conflicts and less psychological problems.



This project is subsidized by ZonMw (project number: 852002122)