ACT for Parents of kids with Asthma

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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or “ACT”, is now backed by several hundred Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) since the 1980s, with applications ranging from the treatment of mental disorders to the improvement of business performance.

One of the most recent RCTs came from Hong Kong.  Originally published as a dissertation, and later in the journal PediatricsYuen Yu Chong and others sought to investigate the extent to which ACT can facilitate parents’ ability to manage their children’s asthma.  The team noted that “in the Asia-Pacific region, over half of the Asian children with asthma require emergency care services due to asthma exacerbations per year.”

Though ACT has demonstrated effectiveness with parents of children with a variety of conditions, such as acquired brain injury, cerebral palsy, and anorexia nervosa, this was the first related to asthma.

The team randomly assigned 168 parent-child dyads to one of two groups.  The control group received the typical asthma education talk given to parents, plus three weekly telephone followups.  The ACT group received the asthma education integrated with a group-based ACT protocol across the same four weeks.

The ACT protocol sought to enhance psychological flexibility on the part of parents.  They did so by increasing present moment awareness, promoting acceptance, and encouraging the parents to take action along values-based goals.  They noted “throughout the four ACT sessions, six ACT therapeutic processes were applied interchangeably, which were: contacting with the present moment, defusion, acceptance, self-as-context, values and committed action.”

The team found that the children from the ACT group were significantly less likely to visit the emergency room or a private doctor as compared to the control group.  Moreover, the children “exhibited fewer days of asthma symptoms during the daytime, fewer nights with disturbed sleep due to asthma symptoms and fewer days of using inhaled bronchodilators.”

The team also reported that parents in the ACT group were less likely to have negative emotional experiences, including worry, anger, and anxiety, which improved quality of life as compared to the control group.

To read more about the study, you can read a summary on the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, which also links to the journal article and dissertation.

Do you have experience with ACT?  Tell us about it in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email, to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Want to learn more about ACT?  Check out our ACT Resource Guide and browse our collection of on-demand Continuing Education videos for more information!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is a science writer, social philosopher, behavioral systems analyst, and the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which aims to connect behavioral science to the world in an engaging, non-academic way.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  His publications follow a theme of behavioral systems analysis, organizational performance, theory & philosophy, and language & cognition.  He has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org

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