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Based on promising results with adults, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) presents as a treatment opportunity for depressed adolescents. We present a pilot study that compares ACT with treatment as usual (TAU), using random allocation of participants who were clinically referred to a psychiatric outpatient service. Participants were 30 adolescents, aged M = 14.9 (SD = 2.55), with 73.6% in the clinical range for depression. At posttreatment on measures of depression participants in the ACT condition showed significantly greater improvement statistically (d = 0.38), and 58% showed clinically reliable change with a response ratio of 1.59 in favor of ACT. Outcomes from 3-month follow-up data are tentative due to small numbers but suggest that improvement increased in magnitude. Measures of global functioning showed statistically significant improvement for both conditions, although clinical change measures favored only the ACT condition. The results support conducting a larger trial of ACT for the treatment of adolescent depression.
The objective of this review is to summarise the evidence for mindfulness and acceptance approaches in the treatment of adolescent depression. The article begins by summarising the outcomes of three broad approaches to the treatment of adolescent depression — primary prevention, pharmacotherapy, and psychotherapy — in order to advocate for advances in treatment. With regard to psychotherapy, we restrict this to comparisons of meta-analytic studies, in order to cover the breadth of the outcome literature. In the second half of this article, we introduce the reader to mindfulness and acceptance-based psychotherapy, with a particular focus on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and the applicability with adolescents. We provide an overview of the philosophical arguments that underlie this approach to psychotherapy and consider how each of these might contribute to treatment approaches for adolescents with depression.