Therapy Based on Eastern Philosophy Helpful in Treatment of Mood Disorders

A relatively new form of talk therapy has proven effective for people suffering from depression and other mood disorders, according to a new study from the Netherlands.

Dr. Martine Fledderus and her colleagues at the University of Twente’s Department of Psychology, Health and Technology enrolled 250 people who have symptoms of depression in a program using therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Another group of 126 people were waitlisted and given no therapy. Among the ones that did receive ACT, about 35% showed significant reductions in their symptoms compared to the waitlisted control group. They felt more energetic and less anxious after treatment, and these improvements were maintained three months later.

The study appears in the journal Psychological Medicine.

ACT is different from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is more frequently practiced. The basis of the new therapy is in Eastern philosophies that teach mindfulness and a nonjudgmental attitude. With CBT, the patient learns to control thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories and other internal events. ACT therapists teach their patients to “just notice” and accept such events in their mental lives. Acceptance means allowing feelings and thoughts to come and go without struggling with them or judging them. The idea is to make the patients more open to feelings and to what is happening in the present, and to gradually discover what is most important to their self-actualization. The process can be about letting feelings and thoughts happen without acting on them, observing both strengths and weaknesses, allowing yourself to fail at some things, acknowledging when there is difficulty in life without avoiding it, and realizing that you can be in control of your inner life and how you think, react, and feel.

ACT therapists sometimes say that A means Accept your reactions and be present to them; C means Choose a valued direction; and T means Take action.

First appearing in 1999, ACT has been tested in over 60 clinical trials, and in most of these studies, it has been seen to be about as effective as other treatments.

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