Acceptance and commitment therapy with older adults: Rationale and case study of an 89-year-old with depression and generalized anxiety disorder

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APA Citation: 

Roberts, S. L., & Sedley, B. (2016). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with older adults: Rationale and a case study of an 89 year old with depression and generalised anxiety disorder. Clinical Case Studies, 15(1), 53-67. doi: 10.1177/1534650115589754

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, older adult, depression, GAD, case study

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is gaining traction as an effective therapy for a wide range of presenting concerns. Limited research and discussion has been published focused on utilizing ACT with older adults. The ACT model is proposed to be a good fit for this population because many older adults may already be values orientated due to awareness that their lifetime is limited. A trans-diagnostic approach that normalizes experiences common to older age may be advantageous given older adults often present with heterogeneous issues and life experiences. A case study of an 89-year-old woman experiencing late-life clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder is presented. A significant factor contributing to her distress was her struggle with the cognitive and physical changes associated with aging. Results suggest that a brief ACT course implemented by a relative novice ACT therapist was effective in reducing psychological inflexibility as well as reducing distress to non-clinical levels at 6 weeks post therapy. Potential implications for adapting ACT with older adults are discussed, as well as reflections on some of the potential challenges for clinicians who are ACT beginners.