Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Efficacy towards Anxiety Disorders - Compared To CBT

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

CBT is a well-established form of therapy, which has been called the "gold standard" of therapy, in recent years, by the American Psychological Association. With robust effects across multiple disorders, it is considered a good alternative for interventions to large scale populations. Even though many psychologists may have som disagreements with CBT being touted as the therapeutic equivalent of a Rolls Royce - most will generally agree that it is considered as a good form of therapy for many psychological problems.

There are some large scale applications that with this in mind, have attempted to create some form of CBT- interventions - most notably Sanvello and Moodpath. They generally seem to produce good results, comparable to in real life CBT.

ACT is a form of therapy that has grown more popular in recent years, and studies seem to show promising results. Despite this - comparing scaled up CBT expertise to ACT expertise, ACT seems to be largely outnumbered, with only one ACT-based application that can even attempt to compete with the CBT-mastodonts wrecking in millions of downloads per year.

A study of 2012, attempted to compare CBT to ACT efficacy, in treating anxiety disorders. This was the first study to directly compare treatment outcomes for multiple anxiety disorders, between the two therapy forms.

71 participants who qualified for some form of anxiety disorder - or multiple - completed 12 weeks of either CBT or ACT treatments. CBT intervention involved psychoeducation of how thoughts, feelings and action affect each other, cognitive restructuring, and exposure. ACT involved work with acceptance of negative emotions, mindfulness and work with identifying and acting in line with valued behaviors.

Directly after treatment, after 6 months, and at a 12 month- follow up, both forms of therapy showed medium to large effect sizes. This means that for most participants, treatment showed good effects.

Interestingly, overall there did not seem to be any significant effects of treatment outcome, between the two therapy forms. CBT seemed to show some stronger effect on a life quality index, whilst ACT seemed more adept at reducing symtoms of a primary psychological diagnosis. Theses differences could be accounted for uncontrollable factors, so the authors were a bit cautious with their analysis.

Overall - this study could be presented as a good argument for scaling up ACT theory for online interventions, just as CBT is currently done right now to a larger degree.



Arch, J. J., Eifert, G. H., Davies, C., Vilardaga, J. C. P., Rose, R. D., & Craske, M. G. (2012). Randomized clinical trial of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) versus acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for mixed anxiety disorders. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 80(5), 750.

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