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ACTing towards better living during COVID-19: The effects of Acceptance and Commitment therapy for individuals affected by COVID-19 (Pages 98-108)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Volume 23, January 2022, Pages 98-108


Kate Shepherd, Nima Golijani-Moghaddam, David L.Dawson


The widespread effects of COVID-19 have dramatically increased the prevalence of mental health difficulties, meaning it is vital to explore psychotherapy options. Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) helps individuals engage in meaningful activities despite difficult and unchangeable circumstances. Recent literature suggests that psychological flexibility, the underlying process of ACT, may moderate COVID-related distress – making ACT a promising psychotherapy candidate. This study therefore aimed to explore the effects of an ACT-based, guided self-help intervention on wellbeing, psychological flexibility, COVID-related distress, and general psychological distress within the general population. 48 participants (recruited via social media) engaged in a three-week, non-concurrent baseline phase, then received six, weekly, digital modules and weekly webinars to address module queries. 20 participants completed all modules and provided post-intervention feedback via an online qualitative survey. Multilevel modelling analysis found significant improvements in: wellbeing; overall psychological flexibility (including subscales behavioural awareness and valued action); and general psychological distress (including depression, anxiety and stress). No significant changes were found for COVID-related distress. Findings were sustained at one- and two-months follow-up – suggesting lasting change. Qualitative findings provide further insights about the experience of the intervention: participants reported improved wellbeing, still experiencing COVID-related distress, but felt more able to cope with general psychological distress (such as anxiety). No change in COVID-related distress scores may be due to methodological and measurement issues. This study is one of the first to explore ACT as a psychotherapeutic intervention for COVID-related distress and adds to the growing body of literature highlighting psychological flexibility as a key process for mitigating COVID-related distress.

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