New RCTs: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is effective for treatment resistant clients

New RCTs: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is effective for treatment resistant clients

Two recent randomized control trials seem to indicate that acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a good option for people who have no benefitted from prior treatment. A lot of people don’t respond to their first round of treatment, so this is good news for a lot of people. This research adds to a growing list of studies showing that ACT is helpful across a large range of conditions and life difficulties.

ACT outperforms CBT for people who had not previously responded to therapy


In a study published in July of 2014 the investigators compared group-based ACT to group-based CBT (treatment as usual) for 61 participants.  These participants came to the study with a range of diagnoses and all had participated in previous psychotherapy for which they did not receive a significant beneficial response.  The results of the study showed that both groups showed initial benefit, however in the group that received ACT treatment the benefits were completely sustained at a 6 month follow up assessment.


ACT works for people with panic disorder that didn’t respond to previous treatment


Another RCT published in March of 2015 tested ACT as an intervention for “treatment-resistant patients” struggling with panic disorder and/or agoraphobia.  There were 43  participants in this study and they all had received evidenced-based, standard of care treatment (mean number of previous sessions = 42) with unsuccessful results.

The participants were grouped into the conditions of treatment, short-term wait-list and delayed treatment and each offered 8 sessions over 4 weeks of manualized ACT treatment.  The results show a medium-to-large effect sizes with sustained and improved results a 6 month follow up assessment.

The authors conclude that this data suggest that ACT is a viable treatment option for panic disorder and agoraphobia treatment-resistant patients.

Research into treatment recommendations and factors concerning non-responders to psychotherapy is a clear gap in the current literature.  However, these studies are building evidence that ACT is a robust treatment that appears to offer patients something useful that other treatments were not able to provide.