Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for late-life treatment-resistant generalised anxiety disorder: A feasibility study

05 Feb 2021
Rebecca Gould, Julie Wetherell, Kate Kimona, Marc 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 Wuthrich, Robert Howard

Background: 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. 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.