Bolstering Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing: An Exploration on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Possible Selves and Structured Activity

Spauls, Joanne (2021) Bolstering Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing: An Exploration on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Possible Selves and Structured Activity. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Background: Prevalence rates of youth mental health difficulties and deterioration in wellbeing are of paramount concern, particularly in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, prompting calls for prevention and early intervention. The systematic review investigated the efficacy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for psychological outcomes with youth. The empirical project, underpinned by possible selves theory, sought to describe and explore youths’ future possible selves, engagement in structured activity and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Method: The systematic review narratively synthesised peer-reviewed literature on ACT interventions with youth, including outcomes on psychological symptoms, distress, wellbeing and quality of life. Secondary aims investigated the efficacy of ACT on overall psychological flexibility. The empirical study utilised a cross-sectional design, with an online survey measuring possible selves, wellbeing and structured activity.

Results: The systematic review included eighteen studies. Overall, ACT demonstrated improvements on outcomes however comparisons between ACT and control groups were less favourable. However, ACT performed similarly, but not superior, to other well-established interventions. Methodological rigour was generally low and limits conclusions. The empirical study recruited 120 participants, who reported predominantly low wellbeing. Individuals less hopeful and with lower expectations for their future since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had significantly lower wellbeing. Positive relationships were found between increased optimism for hoped-for selves, increased engagement in structured activity and higher levels of wellbeing. Exploratory analyses of moderation and mediation models, underpinned by possible selves theory, were not supported.

Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic has detrimentally impacted on youth’s future possible selves and wellbeing. Supporting wellbeing will be vital to buffer against longer term difficulties. Interventions aimed at supporting young people to foster optimism for the future and engage in structured activity may be beneficial for enhancing wellbeing. ACT may offer a promising intervention to support youth wellbeing. Future research is warranted.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Norwich Medical School
Depositing User: Jennifer Whitaker
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2021 12:59
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 12:59


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