ACT in the Treatment of Adolescent PTSD

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies


Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies


Washington, DC

Publication Date



Trauma exposure among youth in the United States is a common event. Although the number of individuals who meet criteria for a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is only a small percentage of those exposed to trauma, many individuals who do not meet full criteria for PTSD continue to experience problematic posttraumatic stress symptomology. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an empirically based psychological intervention that has shown effectiveness in the treatment of a number of concerns among both adults and adolescents. ACT has shown preliminary effectiveness in the treatment of adult PTSD, but its effectiveness in treating adolescent posttraumatic stress is currently unknown. Using a multiple-baseline design, the present study investigated the effectiveness of a 10-week ACT protocol to treat adolescents experiencing posttraumatic stress. Seven individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 participated in the treatment, four of who were from a community sample and three who iv were in residential care to treat comorbid eating disorders. Structured interviews were completed at pretreatment and individuals reported baseline data for anywhere from 7 to 66 days before engaging in treatment. Symptom and process measures were completed at each session. Post assessment was completed one week following the final session. Results revealed a decrease in posttraumatic stress symptomology across both samples, with a 73.7% mean reduction in self-reported posttraumatic stress symptomology and a mean reduction of 58.8% on clinician-rated measures of PTSD. Overall results provide preliminary support for ACT as an effective treatment for adolescent posttraumatic stress. Empirical and clinical implications of results as well as limitations and future directions are discussed.

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