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Understanding Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Children with Depression

acceptance and commitment therapy for children with depression

Depression can be a difficult condition to manage, especially in children. Counselling and psychotherapy are two of the most common treatments for depression, but it can be hard to find the right approach that works for each individual case. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based approach that has been proven to be successful in helping children with depression. Let’s explore what ACT is, how it works, and how it can help children with depression.

What Is ACT?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of therapy used to treat various mental health conditions, including depression in children. It combines mindfulness-based activities with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to help people accept their current thoughts and feelings without judgment while also helping them commit to taking action toward their goals. The goal of ACT is to help people gain insight into their own behavior and beliefs so that they can live more meaningful lives.

How Does ACT Work?

The main focus of ACT is on acceptance rather than trying to change or avoid negative thoughts or emotions. This means that instead of trying to alter one’s thoughts or feelings, they are encouraged to observe them without judgment or criticism. This helps children become more aware of their own experiences, which can lead to greater insight into why they may be feeling depressed or anxious. Additionally, ACT encourages the use of mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga as coping tools for managing stress and anxiety. Other techniques include deep breathing exercises, journaling, visualization exercises, and mindful walking or running.

How Can ACT Help Children With Depression?

By helping children become more aware of their own thoughts and feelings—and accepting them without judgment—children can gain insights into why they may be feeling depressed or anxious. Additionally, the use of mindfulness-based activities such as yoga or meditation can help reduce stress levels while providing calming effects on the body and mind. Furthermore, by encouraging them to take action towards their goals—no matter how small those goals may be—children will feel empowered that they are making progress towards achieving something meaningful in their lives which can help reduce symptoms of depression over time.

What Can A Child With Depression Expect From ACT?

A child with depression can expect psychotherapeutic approaches to treatment through ACT, helping them identify and cope with any thoughts and emotions they may have. It is an evidence-based psychotherapy that uses an individualized approach tailored to the needs of each child. Through meetings with a psychotherapist, together they will work on building personal resilience by increasing self-awareness around the child’s behaviour, thoughts, circumstances, and the environment they live in. Together with the psychotherapist, the goal is to create new pathways of thought and behaviours that are more beneficial for the client’s well-being. Counseling is also available which may include techniques such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to help create healthier patterns of thinking.

What Are The Benefits Of ACT For A Child With Depression?

The benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for a child with depression are numerous. ACT is a psychotherapy approach that prioritizes helping individuals accept their emotions whilst maintaining an active commitment to doing what is meaningful. This helps to promote psychological flexibility which, in turn, can lead to improved well-being. Working with a qualified therapist or counsellor who specializes in ACT makes the process even more beneficial because it provides the opportunity to discuss emotions and issues whilst developing new mind-body coping strategies. By engaging in therapy, children can gain insight into their mood swings and build tools to assist them to manage their day-to-day challenges in better ways. Ultimately, ACT can be incredibly rewarding for children struggling with depression as they learn skills that help enhance relationships and create a life worth living.

How Long Will ACT Take To Work For A Child Suffering/Dealing With Depression?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an effective psychotherapy treatment for children dealing with depression. While each person’s experience is unique, this psychotherapy treatment typically requires four to six weekly sessions with a qualified therapist. During the sessions, the therapist will utilize multiple techniques, such as counselling and exercises encouraging mindfulness skills to achieve lasting behaviour changes. It’s essential to find a competent psychotherapist who specializes in ACT as incorrect implementation may lead to an unsuccessful outcome or potentially worsen the child’s condition. The ability to improve depends on the child’s commitment and willingness to take part in psychotherapy sessions, meaning that outcomes vary from person to person and can even take longer than six weeks.

How Do I Know If ACT Is The Right Treatment For A Child With Depression?

It can be difficult to determine if Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is the right psychotherapy treatment for a child with depression. Ultimately, it’s best to consult with a qualified psychotherapist or counsellor who can thoroughly explore the challenges the child is facing, assess their needs and offer an appropriate recommendation. The therapist can decide if ACT would be of benefit, or recommend another form of therapy. As clinicians skilled in recognizing mental health disorders in children, they can provide your family with resources and guidance throughout any therapy process. Knowing you have a professional at hand to help create an individualized plan bodes well for successful recovery.

Depression in children is an incredibly complex issue; however, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been proven effective at treating this condition in both adults and children alike. This evidence-based approach combining mindfulness activities with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, helps people accept their current thoughts and feelings without judgment while actively working towards achieving their goals for a more meaningful life free from symptoms of depression. If you have a child struggling with depression, consider talking to your therapist about utilizing the power of ACT to help your loved one manage this difficult condition effectively.

If you have any questions or would like to explore further, please book a free, no-charge online appointment with either myself, Josh Zettel, Certified Counsellor, or another Kitchener psychotherapist at CARESPACE. We are happy to listen and are here to help!

Picture of Josh Zettel, BA (Hons), MA, RP (Qualifying) CCC

Josh Zettel, BA (Hons), MA, RP (Qualifying) CCC

Psychotherapist, Clinic Director
Life can be hard at times. Do you feel like you could use some extra support to manage the moments that life can bring? Josh is available to provide a space that offers trust, psychological safety, and evidence-based strategies to help you manage your mental health. If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, burnout, career stress, grief, having difficulties with self-regulation, self-esteem, life transitions, and relationships; Josh is here for you. With a BA Honours in Psychology and Philosophy from Wilfrid Laurier University and an MA in Counselling with a Specialization in Sport and Health Psychology from Adler University in Chicago, Josh brings his strong theoretical background from the fields of counselling and sport psychology to help you understand how the brain and body works, how you can improve self-awareness, and how to develop tools to move forward towards healthier habits both mentally and physically. Josh is a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CSPA) and has earned certificates in Narrative Therapy and as a HeartMath® Certified Practitioner. He incorporates narrative strategies into his counselling approach along with HeartMath techniques and biofeedback technology for client’s looking for support with stress, anxiety, and self-regulation.

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