Can smartphones help individuals apply Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in their daily lives? Researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands set out to see if this is possible, using experience sampling methodology.
However, what is ACT? ACT is a therapy that teaches patients to accept the obstacles present in their lives and to act on those problems in accordance with their values. It does not try to eradicate negative symptoms or feelings, but instead guide those individuals to a healthy place of acceptance.
In this study, 49 participants with diverse ages, education levels, and mental diagnoses completed 4 weeks of ACT in daily life intervention on their mobile devices. There were two main components of this experiment:
- Participants were monitored for current symptoms, activity, whereabouts, and company 10 times a day.
- Participants were exposed to ACT training randomly throughout the day, which presented them with exercises asking them to:
- Open up to unpleasant feelings
- Explore what there is to experience in their mind
- Keep in touch with those feelings
- Give their feelings space instead of trying to control or eliminate them
They were also presented with visual metaphors, such as playing tug-of-war with a monster (“Try to stop your attempts of solving your pain by winning the war with it; try to let go of the rope”), or standing behind a waterfall (“Instead of being carried away by your stream of thoughts, take a step back and observe them”).
At the end of each week, the participants also completed a phone survey to evaluate the effectiveness of that week’s training.
The study found that combining experience sampling with mobile health (mHealth) intervention was rated positively. Users believed this daily life intervention increased their use of ACT and they completed exercises for over an hour each week. While the feasibility and acceptability of ACT via mHealth was verified, the study did not identify any trends in the effectiveness of such treatment.
This study was the first of its kind to use ACT as a mHealth intervention, and they plan to perform more studies in the future regarding short and long term effectiveness for patients.
Batink, T., Bakker, J., Vaessen, T., Kasanova, Z., Collip, D., van Os, J., … & Peeters, F. (2016). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Daily Life Training: A Feasibility Study of an mHealth Intervention. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 4(3), 1-12.