A four-session ACT based intervention for depressive symptoms delivered by master’s degree level psychology students

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APA Citation: 

Kohtala, A., Lappalainen, R., Savonen, L., Timo, E., & Tolvanen, A. (2015). A Four-Session Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Based Intervention for Depressive Symptoms Delivered by Masters Degree Level Psychology Students: A Preliminary Study. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 43(3), 360-373. doi:10.1017/S1352465813000969

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), depressive symptoms, brief intervention, novice therapist

Background: Depressive symptoms are one of the main reasons for seeking psychological help. Shorter interventions using briefly trained therapists could offer a solution to the ever-rising need for early and easily applicable psychological treatments. Aims: The current study examines the effectiveness of a four-session Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) based treatment for self-reported depressive symptoms administered by Master's level psychology students.

Method: This paper reports the effectiveness of a brief intervention compared to a waiting list control (WLC) group. Participants were randomized into two groups: ACT (n = 28) and waiting list (n = 29). Long-term effects were examined using a six-month follow-up.

Results: The treatment group's level of depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory) decreased by an average of 47%, compared to an average decrease of 4% in the WLC group. Changes in psychological well-being in the ACT group were better throughout, and treatment outcomes were maintained after six months. The post-treatment between-group and follow-up with-in group effect sizes (Cohen's d) were large to medium for depressive symptoms and psychological flexibility. Conclusions: The results support the brief ACT-based intervention for sub-clinical depressive symptoms when treatment was conducted by briefly trained psychology students. It also contributes to the growing body of evidence on brief ACT-based treatments and inexperienced therapists.

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