Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Decreases Symptoms of Depression

People who exhibit mild depressive symptoms are at increased risk for clinical depression. Addressing these symptoms early is a key factor in preventing the onset of major depressive disorder. Individuals with moderate symptoms often don’t seek help because they do not realize the severity of their condition and because they are worried about the stigma associated with mental health problems. Therefore, the most effective early interventions focus on removing the stigma attached to mental illness and encouraging individuals to work on decreasing the psychological stress that negatively impacts mental health. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is one such therapy approach that teaches clients how to cope with depressive symptoms, view themselves in a positive light, and helps them overcome the stigma associated with depression and other mood issues. To get a better idea of how effective ACT is, Martine Fledderus of the the University of Twente’s Department of Psychology, Health and Technology in The Netherlands conducted a study assessing ACT in depressed individuals.

For her study, Fledderus evaluated 250 participants who had symptoms of mild to moderate depression. The participants were enrolled in ACT with follow-up email support that was either extensive (ACT-E) or minimal (ACT-M). Another group of126 participants was waitlisted (W-L). After the therapy, Fledderus reassessed the participants and found that 39% of the ACT-M and 34% of the ACT-E participants saw significant reductions in symptoms compared to those participants in the W-L group. Additionally, Fledderus discovered that the reductions were maintained 3 months later. The participants who saw reductions in symptoms also reported less fatigue and anxiety immediately following treatment and throughout the 3 months after ACT. Fledderus believes that these findings, which support other research demonstrating the effectiveness of ACT, emphasize the importance of addressing mild to moderate symptoms of depression in individuals who might otherwise avoid treatment. She added, “Offering an early intervention in a positive frame and as a self-help program might be less stigmatizing for participants than the traditional mental health services.”

Fledderus, M., Bohlmeijer, E. T., Pieterse, M. E., Schreurs, K. M. G. (2012). Acceptance and commitment therapy as guided self-help for psychological distress and positive mental health: a randomized controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, 42.3, 485-495.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Mel El

    March 17th, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    When you get to a point in life where you are able to accept yourself for who you are and the feelings that you have, and come to see them in a light where you view them as o and just a different part of you instead of looking on them as a way that they make you different from others, it is then that you will find true acceptance ind belief in you. For most of us it takes a journey of years to find this kind of acceptance, but it can be done, and for many ACT is the key to that journey’s completion. Depression does not have to be WHO you are, but it is fine to recognize that it is a part of who you are but that you have control over what you allow it to do to you.

  • roma

    March 17th, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    And giving them the tools to help with their own healing is critical! Nothing beats that feeling that you are helping yourself to make some positive changes!

  • Trav

    March 18th, 2012 at 5:28 AM

    Like most any disease early internevtion is going to be the key to success.
    These are things that can’t be allowed to linger and fester. You know that in situations like that it is only going to grow worse over time.
    We need people who are able to recognize early what is going on and get some one the help that they need.

  • G K

    March 18th, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    Stigma does play a role no debate..But everybody has this thing in their mind-I cannot be affected-this may discourage people from seeking help or diagnosis..Isn’t this right?

  • Mark

    March 19th, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    The fact that there is a stigma against those with mental illness still very much exists today, and the fact that this keeps someone from seeking help is beyond what is and is not acceptable.

    Would we rreally rather have someone go without treatment just because we are biased against them due to something that is beyond their control?

  • Greta

    March 19th, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    sounds like the support via email and other manners that they received afterwards probably played a large role in how well the participants did after the fact that the sessions were completed

  • Ruth

    March 19th, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    What starts off mildly can indeed become problematic.But what exactly are these mild symptoms?Is the now-common worrying also mild symptoms?Because most of us now seem to have this worrying about things as something constant!

  • Eunice

    March 21st, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    You are going to have a lot of minds to change because for a lot of narrow minded people depression is still somewhat taboo, something that is shameful and you keep hidden.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.