ACT for Depression

ACT depressed_man


“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.” – Elizabeth Wurtzel

Depression is challenging and potentially deadly. It permeates the individual’s entire life and being. It is also widespread, affecting millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide. Recently mindfulness based therapies have been developed to treat depression and have been found to be quite effective (see links below). In fact, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed specifically to treat depression. But Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness Meditation, and Loving Kindness Meditation have all been shown to be effective.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a new form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that has been shown to be effective for depression. It helps the individual examine how their thoughts, feelings, and behavior interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. Additionally, ACT helps people strengthen aspects of cognition such as in committing to valued living.


As impressive as the effectiveness of many of the therapies for depression are, they require the supervision of a trained therapist working either with a single individual or in small groups. With the magnitude of the problem of depression, these therapies can only touch a small fraction of depression suffers. Recently the internet has been used to provide therapy to a wide audience. It allows for therapies to be made available to a much larger number of patients over a much larger geographical area.


In today’s Research News article “Web-Based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Depressive Symptoms With Minimal Support: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

Lappalainen and colleagues use the internet to deliver Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (iACT) for the treatment of depression and compared its effectiveness to a group of participants on a wait list for treatment. They found large significant and much greater improvements for the iACT group for depression overall and also marked improvements in experienced psychological and physiological symptoms, psychological flexibility, mindfulness, frequency of automatic thoughts, and thought suppression. In addition, the improvements continued and even increased over the year following treatment, demonstrating the long lasting effectiveness of iACT.


These are impressive results and indicate that ACT can be delivered effectively over the internet, producing long-lasting improvement in depression. The results suggest that iACT worked the way it was designed to, by producing more mindful, positive, and constructive thought processes. Thinking was more targeted to the present moment reducing rumination about past events, it was more under control and less automatic, and provided much greater flexibility in evaluative thinking. So the depressed individuals’ broke the cycle produced by the ideas and thoughts they have regarding their depression contributing further to their depression, allowing them to understand better the nature of their problems and the sources of their feelings.


So, ACT for depression.


Depression isn’t about, ‘Woe is me, my life is this, that and the other’, it’s like having the worst flu all day that you just can’t kick.” – Robbie Williams


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies




Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is effective for major depression even after drugs fail

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is effective for depression

Loving Kindness Meditation is effective for depression

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is effective for depression

Mindfulness Meditation alters the brain to relieve depression


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