The Use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Promote Mental Health and School Engagement in University Students: A Multisite Randomized Controlled Trial

Behav Ther. 2018 May;49(3):360-372. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2017.10.003. Epub 2017 Nov 2.


The aim of this multisite randomized controlled trial was to determine whether an intervention based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) was efficacious in improving university students' psychological flexibility, mental health, and school engagement. Students were recruited in four Canadian universities and randomly assigned to an intervention (n = 72) or a wait-list control group (n = 72). Students in the intervention group took part in four 2.5-hour workshops during a 4-week period and were asked to do exercises at home (e.g., meditation, observation grids). Wait-list students received the intervention soon after the post measurements. MANCOVAs and ANCOVAs revealed that students in the intervention group showed greater psychological flexibility at postintervention than those in the control group. They also reported greater well-being and school engagement, and lower stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Taken together, results of this study suggest that an ACT-based intervention offers a valuable way to promote mental health and school engagement in postsecondary settings.

Keywords: acceptance and commitment therapy; mental health; psychological flexibility; school engagement; university students.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy*
  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Social Participation*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Universities
  • Young Adult