ACT training reduces staff stress but further research needed


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT – pronounced as the word rather than the initials) is based on the notion that it is important to accept what is out of your personal control but commit to action to improve and enrich your life. ACT is an approach which sets out to teach psychological skills to deal with painful thoughts and feelings so they have much less impact and influence and by helping people to identify what is truly important and meaningful so that these things can help to change life for the better.

The authors of this study were interested in the application of these principles to occupational stress. Following a pilot study which suggested such an approach may be helpful to staff working with people with learning disabilities, they set out to train a group of ‘ACT novices’, recruited from the workforce, to deliver training to others.

They worked with 72 staff in specialist challenging behaviour services who attended one of six workshops which consisted of one day and a half-day follow-up six weeks later. In order to evaluate the impact of the intervention, they took a range of measurements from those staff at five time points, including two baseline, one post-intervention and two follow-up measures.

They found significant improvements at different time points on the General Health Questionnaire, the Maslach Burnout Inventory and a number of sub scales on the Staff Stress Questionnaire and the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale. They found no significant changes in measures on Acceptance (Acceptance and Action Questionnaire) and Values (Support Staff Values Questionnaire), which are key ACT concepts.

They conclude that their findings are similar to those of previous studies, but suggest that

complete support for an ACT model was not demonstrated which provides opportunities for further research in the field.

Outcomes of a ‘Train the Trainers’ approach to an acceptance based stress intervention in a specialist challenging behaviour service Smith, M & Gore N in International Journal of Positive Behavioural Support, 2, 1, 39-48

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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