Using ACT in Schools

Using ACT in Schools
Photo by Cristian Escobar / Unsplash

I gave a professional development training to the School Psychology Team in Jordan School District, UT, on August 8, 2022. The topic was using acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in schools.

ACT is an evidence-based intervention approach grounded in mindfulness and behavior change processes. I think ACT is especially promising for school-based mental health services because it's  transdiagnostic (or we could even say adiagnostic), adaptable, and scalable. This means ACT might be used in schools for lots of purposes, including:

  1. To treat multiple, complex, and co-occuring youth mental health problems.
  2. As targeted prevention and universal wellbeing promotion.
  3. To support teachers and parents in their efforts to support youth.
  4. To support families and communities with diverse values and cultures.

And this means ACT might be useful in school environments with varying levels of resources at their disposal for supporting mental health services.

My presentation started by providing background on the youth and teacher mental health landscape to warrant the need for transdiagnostic (or adiagnostic), adaptable, and scalable interventions like ACT. I then walked through ACT's core processes—fleshing out the "hexaflex" and "triflex" models—and talked about what research and best practices say about how we might use ACT in schools.

Slide on the "hexaflex" model of ACT processes.
Slide on the the "triflex" model of ACT processes.
Slide illustrating how ACT can be used at Tier 1 in schools.
Slide illustrating how ACT can be used at Tier 2 in schools.
Slide illustrating how ACT can be used at Tier 3 in schools. 

My presentation closed by pointing folks to several practical resources intended for supporting use of ACT with youth and caregivers. You can find titles and direct links to these resources, most of which are fairly affordable, in the last section of my presentation slide deck.  

Much of the presentation content was adapted from a recent book chapter—"ACT in Schools: A Public Health Approach"—authored by my lab. The pretty, published version of that chapter is not yet available. But you can download a freebie preprint version to learn more on this topic. ▲