1. Health

Acceptance Therapy & Generalized Anxiety Disorder


Updated September 22, 2008

There is a significant psychotherapy trend toward using what's known as “acceptance-based” treatment approaches. The central idea is that if people can simply accept the presence of their difficulties, struggles, symptoms, and unwanted characteristics, they can gain more control over these things and become more likely to improve or change.

Several researchers have begun development of an acceptance-based approach combined with cognitive and behavioral therapy for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Why Acceptance?

Some sub-characteristics of generalized anxiety disorder include a tendency to avoid anxiety-provoking experiences and chronic, future-oriented worry.

Due to this, learning to accept certain stress (despite how uncomfortable it may be for awhile) and focus on the present moment can provide real relief from the intense anxiety people with GAD experience.

Is There Proof That This Works?

The developers of this approach gave 16 treatment sessions to a sample of people seeking treatment for GAD. Results showed that a majority of the participants had significant improvement in anxiety and worry after concluding treatment. These results also held at a 3-month follow up, and the participants indicated an increase in quality of life.

The Bottom Line

Although general cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to be effective treatment for a majority of people with GAD, some people may not respond to it at all. This new acceptance-based behavioral therapy approach takes a slightly different angle and incorporates new treatment research findings into a time-tested therapy.

What This Means to You

For people struggling with GAD, learning to accept the temporary discomfort of an anxiety provoking experience, and allowing one's self to learn from it, can be highly therapeutic.

Focusing on the present moment is also a way to take the intensity away from future-oriented stress. It may be difficult to find a therapist using this approach right now. But if it continues to show efficacy, it should become more commonly used.


Roemer & Orsillo (2007). Open trial of an acceptance-based behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. Behavior Therapy, 38, 72-85.

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