Acceptance and commitment therapy for late-life treatment-resistant generalised anxiety disorder: a feasibility study

Rebecca L. Gould*, Julie Loebach Wetherell, Kate Kimona, Marc A. Serfaty, Rebecca Jones, Christopher D. Graham, Vanessa Lawrence, Gill Livingston, Philip Wilkinson, Kate Walters, Marie Le Novere, Iracema Leroi, Robert Barber, Ellen Lee, Jo Cook, Viviana M. Wuthrich, Robert J. Howard, FACTOID group

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)
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    Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder in older people. First-line management includes pharmacological and psychological therapies, but many do not find these effective or acceptable. Little is known about how to manage treatment-resistant generalised anxiety disorder (TR-GAD) in older people. 

    Objectives: To examine the acceptability, feasibility and preliminary estimates of the effectiveness of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for older people with TR-GAD. 

    Participants: People aged ≥65 years with TR-GAD (defined as not responding to GAD treatment, tolerate it or refused treatment) recruited from primary and secondary care services and the community. INTERVENTION: Participants received up to 16 one-to-one sessions of ACT, developed specifically for older people with TR-GAD, in addition to usual care. 

    Measurements: Co-primary outcomes were feasibility (defined as recruitment of ≥32 participants and retention of ≥60% at follow-up) and acceptability (defined as participants attending ≥10 sessions and scoring ≥21/30 on the satisfaction with therapy subscale). Secondary outcomes included measures of anxiety, worry, depression and psychological flexibility (assessed at 0 and 20 weeks). 

    Results: Thirty-seven participants were recruited, 30 (81%) were retained and 26 (70%) attended ≥10 sessions. A total of 18/30 (60%) participants scored ≥21/30 on the satisfaction with therapy subscale. There was preliminary evidence suggesting that ACT may improve anxiety, depression and psychological flexibility. 

    Conclusions: There was evidence of good feasibility and acceptability, although satisfaction with therapy scores suggested that further refinement of the intervention may be necessary. Results indicate that a larger-scale randomised controlled trial of ACT for TR-GAD is feasible and warranted.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1751-1761
    Number of pages11
    JournalAge and Ageing
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • acceptance and commitment therapy
    • feasibility
    • generalised anxiety disorder
    • older people
    • treatment-resistant


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