ACT for children and young people

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy that has shown effectiveness in treating various mental health conditions in both adults and children. While ACT was initially developed for adults, its principles and techniques have been adapted and found to be particularly suitable for children as well.

Why ACT therapy can be beneficial for children

ACT helps children develop cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to adapt their thoughts and behaviours in response to different situations. This skill is essential for coping with stress, managing emotions, and solving problems effectively.
ACT emphasises the importance of accepting and acknowledging difficult emotions and experiences rather than suppressing or avoiding them. Children are encouraged to recognise and express their feelings in a safe and non-judgmental environment, promoting emotional awareness and self-compassion.

ACT teaches defusion techniques to help children distance themselves from unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. By learning to observe their thoughts without getting caught up in them, children can reduce the impact of negative thinking patterns and gain a sense of control over their mental processes.

ACT helps children identify their personal values and use them as a guide for their actions and decisions. By clarifying their values, children can develop a sense of purpose and direction, which can enhance their motivation and resilience.
Mindfulness is a core component of ACT therapy. It involves paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity, and non-judgment. Mindfulness practices help children develop self-awareness, regulate their emotions, and improve their ability to focus and concentrate.

ACT encourages children to engage in activities that are in line with their values and promote their overall well-being. This behavioural activation component helps children build positive habits, increase their engagement in meaningful activities, and improve their overall mood and functioning.

Read more about Louise Hayes’ DNA-V model for using ACT for children and young people.

Parental and adult involvement

ACT therapy often involves active participation from parents, caregivers and teachers. Parents can learn strategies and techniques to support their child’s progress, reinforce therapeutic concepts at home, and create a more supportive and accepting environment for their child. Similarly teachers can support children in their classroom and in school by using the same strategies, which provides a consistent and supportive environment in which the child can develop.

It’s important to note that while ACT therapy has shown promise in treating a wide range of issues in children, the suitability and effectiveness of any therapy approach can vary depending on the individual child and their specific needs. Consulting with a qualified mental health professional experienced in working with children is recommended to determine the best course of treatment.

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