Anxiety and Depression Association of America Annual Meeting
Anxiety and Depression Association of America Annual Meeting
April 13, 2016
2 min read

Brief CBT, ACT interventions effective for panic, show clinical utility

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PHILADELPHIA —Brief interventions based on cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy reduced panic symptoms in a general population cohort, suggesting utility of brief interventions in a clinical setting.

“We were interested in the differences between acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), especially when it relates to anxiety. There’s been a lot of research that shows equivalent results between the two treatments and sometimes patients favor one over the other,” Kerry Kelso, BS, of Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, told “I thought it would be interesting to do a brief version of that and see what happens in a general population.”

To compare the effects of brief CBT and ACT interventions on reactivity to panic symptom induction, researchers randomly assigned 161 undergraduate students to a 30-minute CBT (n = 54) or ACT (n = 53) intervention or a control condition (n = 54). Study participants completed a straw breathing task to induce panic-related arousal symptoms at baseline and postintervention. The Acute Panic Inventory (API) was also completed before and after the intervention.

Analysis indicated significant reductions in API scores from baseline to postintervention among both CBT and ACT groups, but not the control group.

Comparison analysis indicated that at a trend level, the ACT-based intervention was more effective in reducing API scores than the CBT intervention (P = .08).

While the present findings favored ACT, the larger overall study showed little differences persistence-wise, according to Kelso.

“One thing that these findings speak to is that a brief 20-minute intervention can produce significant change, which says a lot about the fact that many times when we have clients come in the mean number of times they’ll come in is maybe one or two times. We’re not necessarily going to get 12 sessions to see them. So this is something we could do relatively quickly to produce change,” Kelso said. “Another thing to think about is there might be moderating variables. Acceptance might work better for some patients and cognitive restructuring may work better for others. So seeing those differences can be useful in informing what we do, whether it’s tailoring treatment to particular populations or just thinking about if someone is only going to come in one time, what is going to benefit them kind of in the most efficient way possible.” – by Amanda Oldt


Kelso K, et al. Effects of brief CBT and ACT interventions on panic symptoms in response to a biological challenge task. Presented at: Anxiety and Depression Association of America Conference; March 31-April 3, 2016; Philadelphia.

Disclosure: Kelso reports no relevant financial disclosures.