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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for improving the lives of cancer patients: a preliminary study


Correspondence to: School of Psychology, University of Wollongong, Northfields Ave., Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia. E-mail:



This preliminary study examined the effectiveness of an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention at improving the quality of life among cancer patients. It was hypothesised that over the course of the intervention, patients would report increased psychological flexibility through acceptance of unpleasant thoughts and feelings, and that increased psychological flexibility would lead to improvements in distress, mood, and quality of life.


Forty-five cancer patients participated in an ACT intervention. Outcome measures included self-reported distress, mood disturbance, psychological flexibility, and quality of life. Data were collected at pre, mid, and post-intervention and at 3-month follow-up.


The data showed significant improvements on outcome measures from pre to post and from pre to follow-up. Regression analyses showed that changes in psychological flexibility predicted changes in quality of life, distress, and mood.


ACT effect sizes were comparable to those obtained in studies examining the effectiveness of other psychological therapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, at improving quality of life among individuals with cancer. This supports further research into ACT as an effective intervention for cancer patients. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.