Skip to main content

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy informed behavioral health interventions delivered by non-mental health professionals: A systematic review (Pages 185-196)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Volume 24, April 2022, Pages 185-196


Trisha Arnold, Kayla K.Haubrick, Lynne B.Klasko-Foster, Brooke G.Rogers, Andrew Barnett, Natalia A. Ramirez- Sanchez, Zoe Bertone, Brandon A.Gaudiano



Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a third-wave behavioral and cognitive therapy that increases psychological flexibility through mindfulness, acceptance, and value-driven behavior change. ACT has been successfully used to inform a variety of health interventions. Using non-therapists to deliver ACT-based behavioral health interventions offers an opportunity to provide cost efficient and integrated care, particularly among underserved populations experiencing barriers to mental health care, such as inadequate insurance, mental health stigma, and provider shortages. This systematic review aims to: 1) identify ACT-informed behavioral health interventions delivered by laypeople and 2) review the specific characteristics of each intervention including number and duration of sessions, delivery modality, interventionist training, and intervention outcomes.


Two databases (PubMed and PsycINFO) were systematically searched for relevant literature. To further identify relevant studies, references of included manuscripts were checked, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science's webpage was examined, and an email was sent to the ACBS Health Special Interest Group listserv. Study abstracts and full texts (in English) were screened, resulting in 23 eligible articles describing 19 different interventions.


A total of 1781 abstracts were screened, 76 were eligible for full-text review, and 23 were included in a narrative synthesis. There were 19 unique interventions identified and delivered by the following: general healthcare workers (n = 7), trained researchers (n = 5), women/mothers (n = 2), municipal workers (n = 2), and teachers (n = 3). Eleven studies were RCTs and eight utilized alternative study designs. Study quality varied, with two rated as high risk for bias and eight rated to have some concerns. Target populations included clinical and non-clinical samples. There was some consistency in the effects reported in the studies: increases in pain tolerance, acceptance, and identifying and engaging in value driven behavior, improvements in cognitive flexibility, and reductions in psychological distress.


Findings suggest that ACT interventions can be successfully delivered by a variety of laypeople and effectively address psychological distress and increase health behaviors.

This article is restricted to ACBS members. Please join or login with your ACBS account.