DNA-V – the ACT model for children and adolescents

What is DNA-V?

DNA-V is a combination of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and positive psychology, both underpinned by behavioural science. It’s designed to help young people cope with challenges, stress and with change. The model is deliberately designed to be simple and easy to understand and is very popular with psychologists, therapists, mental health professionals, teachers, counsellors and coaches.

There is a large and growing body of scientific evidence that ACT and DNA-V work with children, adolescents and adults and it’s increasingly being used by primary through to university teachers in school and college curricula, in mental health clinics for young people and with parents. DNA-V helps young people learn the vital life skills needed to thrive, grow and be the best that they can be. With adults it’s used in a wide variety of fields including professional athletes and managers in many workplaces to help them respond to difficult situations by improving their psychological strength in a changing world.

Steven C. Hayes, co-founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy states “DNA-V is one of most important innovations in ACT in the last several years and is arguably THE most important in work with adolescents.”


Benefits of the DNA-V approach

The whole purpose of DNA-V is to help people develop flexible strength – the ability to persist in important things that they value and care about, and to change behaviour that is making their life worse.


What does DNA-V stand for?

Diagram for DNA-V model

The letters D, N, and A stand for three types of behaviour that are embedded within our self and social contexts.

Discoverer refers to the trial-and-error behaviour that functions to expand and build skills, resources, and social networks.

Noticer refers to any behaviour that functions to increase the awareness of experience.

Advisor refers to verbal behaviour that functions to save people from the need for trial-and-error learning so they can navigate efficiently and safely through the world.

The model guides a practitioner to develop people’s skilled use of Discoverer, Noticer, and Advisor, to build values and vitality (V). The model improves their ability to flexibly shift behaviours, depending on what they value and what the situation permits and demands.


Find out more

You’ll find much more information about DNA-V on the website, including some free resources such as workbooks and podcasts for young people and adolescents and for adults.

There are several books on DNA-V, including:

What Makes You Stronger – How to Thrive in the Face of Change and Uncertainty Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. (2022). Louise Hayes, Joseph Ciarrochi, and Ann Bailey.

The Weight Escape – Stop Fad Dieting, Start Losing Weight and Reshape Your Life Using Cutting-Edge Psychology. (2014). By Joseph Ciarrochi, Ann Bailey & Russ Harris.

Your Life, Your Way: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Skills to Help Teens Manage Emotions and Build Resilience. (2020). Joseph V. Ciarrochi & Louise L. Hayes.

The Thriving Adolescent – Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Positive Psychology to Help Teens Manage Emotions, Achieve Goals, and Build Connection. (2015). By Louise L. Hayes & Joseph Ciarrochi.

Workshops: Please note that Contextual Consulting are fortunate to have Louise Hayes presenting several workshops on DNA-V. You may be interested to join us for her ACT for adolescents for beginners in November 2023 or her short ACT with parents and teachers workshop in March 2024.


“Louise Hayes is a master of that model and there is no one on the planet who is better at explaining it, and teaching and modelling the skills needed to use it. Louise is a worldwide treasure. I can highly recommend her training and if you attend one of them I predict you will soon feel the same way.” 

Steven C. Hayes, co-founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, professor of psychology, University of Nevada