Exploring the effectiveness of ACT in easing stress among adolescents – a meta analytic review

In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become increasingly prevalent among children and adolescents, posing significant risks to their mental and physical well-being. In the quest to combat this rising issue, Binder et al. (2023) turned their attention to acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). In this systematic review and meta-analysis titled “Interventions based on acceptance and commitment therapy for stress reduction in children and adolescents” the researchers delved into the effectiveness of ACT-based interventions in reducing stress.

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Binder, F., Mehl, R., Resch, F., Kaess, M., & Koenig, J. (2023). Interventions based on acceptance and commitment therapy for stress reduction in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Psychopathology, 1-17. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1159/000535048.


Exploring the effectiveness of ACT in easing stress among adolescents – overview

Understanding the study design:

To assess the impact of ACT-based interventions, researchers conducted a meticulous analysis of eight randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised controlled trials. These trials collectively involved 976 participants, spanning children, adolescents, and young adults. By comparing the outcomes of ACT interventions with control conditions, such as waitlist control or treatment as usual, the researchers aimed to uncover the true potential of ACT in stress reduction.

Promising findings:

The meta-analysis yielded promising results, demonstrating a significant reduction in stress among the participants who received ACT-based interventions compared to those in control conditions. The effect size, quantified by Hedges’ g, was found to be -0.20, underscoring the positive impact of ACT on stress reduction. Notably, the ACT interventions were implemented in various settings, including school-based group sessions and individual therapy, catering to both universal and indicated prevention approaches.

Decoding acceptance and commitment therapy:

Unlike traditional cognitive-behavioural therapies, ACT takes a unique approach by emphasising acceptance of difficult thoughts and emotions while focusing on personal values and committed action. Rather than targeting specific mental health disorders directly, ACT equips individuals with the skills needed to build resilience and effectively cope with stressors. This transdiagnostic nature of ACT holds immense promise for stress prevention and treatment, particularly in younger populations.

Implications and future directions:

In a world where stress among children and adolescents is on the rise, ACT emerges as a beacon of hope. The study’s findings hold interesting implications, showcasing the potential of ACT as an invaluable tool for reducing stress among children and adolescents.

Some studies highlighted that adolescents who were most affected by stress at the beginning of the intervention showed the highest benefits from ACT. This finding aligns with previous research indicating that targeted interventions are more effective in reducing stress compared to universal programs. One study found a large effect size in favour of ACT-based training for indicated prevention, specifically targeting severely stressed adolescents. However, this finding needs replication due to the small sample size.

By fostering acceptance, resilience, and a commitment to personal values, ACT equips young individuals with the necessary skills to navigate the challenges they encounter daily. However, to fully harness the power of ACT, future research must address the methodological limitations and explore the differential indications for ACT-based treatments in youth.

 

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