Anxiety and depression are increasingly common, yet many people do not receive treatment. Self-guided acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) web apps are an effective, accessible treatment option for people experiencing anxiety and depression.
- Self-help websites and apps using acceptance and commitment therapy improve anxiety, depression, and quality of life
- ACT apps are more accessible than in-person therapy and can help reduce the gap in mental healthcare
The prevalence of mental illness, especially anxiety and depression, has been increasing each year. Despite the greater need for mental health services, 30.5% of people with a diagnosable mental health disorder report they are not receiving treatment. Gaps in mental health care arise from logistical barriers preventing therapy access, unperceived need, and social stigma associated with seeking care.
Online Self-Help Programs for Anxiety and Depression
In-person therapy is the traditional approach to mental health treatment, but online self-help programs are gaining popularity, according to a study published in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. At least 100,000 web- and mobile-based applications are currently available for download. Over the past 10 years, over 50 studies have investigated whether online self-help treatment can effectively improve anxiety and depression.
Most apps use the acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) method, rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy. The focus of ACT is to improve psychological flexibility by strengthening mindful awareness and accepting internal experiences. Flexibility is achieved by acting within three pillars: being open, being centered, and being engaged.
Effectiveness of Act-Based Websites and Apps
ACT-based websites and apps improved anxiety, depression, quality of life, and psychological flexibility compared to control groups that did not receive treatment. The structure of ACT makes it particularly suited for online dissemination, breaking down topics into self-guided modules.
Advantages of Web-Based Platforms for Mental Health Care
Web-based platforms allow patients to take moment-by-moment assessments and track progress more often than is possible with in-person therapy. More research is required to determine whether ACT is superior to other types of online interventions, but these treatments can make therapy more affordable and accessible. With its potential to reach a broader range of individuals in need of mental healthcare, online ACT may provide a promising and effective alternative to traditional therapy methods.
Klimczak, K. S., San Miguel, G. G., Mukasa, M. N., Twohig, M. P., & Levin, M. E. (2023). A systematic review and meta-analysis of self-guided online acceptance and commitment therapy as a transdiagnostic self-help intervention. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 1-26. https://doi.org/10.1080/16506073.2023.2178498