Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 645–654 | Cite as

Acceptance and commitment therapy for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders: development of an inpatient group intervention

  • Alexa BonacquistiEmail author
  • Matthew J. Cohen
  • Crystal Edler Schiller
Review Article


Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality for childbearing women. Current treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, have demonstrated modest success in addressing perinatal psychiatric symptoms; however, additional treatment options are needed to address the limitations of current approaches, particularly for women experiencing moderate to severe perinatal mental illness during pregnancy or postpartum. We discuss the use of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as a promising treatment approach that may be uniquely suited for perinatal women due to its emphasis of values, mindfulness, and acceptance; these psychological constructs notably address the significant psychiatric and behavioral health condition comorbidity, somatic symptoms, and stigma associated with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. In addition, we describe the development of a four-session ACT-based group intervention at the Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sessions focus on core ACT processes of acceptance, cognitive defusion, present-moment awareness, value identification, and goal setting, and we describe how each of these processes is relevant to the perinatal population. Implications for future clinical applications and research investigations are discussed.


Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders Acceptance and commitment therapy Perinatal mental health 



The authors wish to gratefully acknowledge Dr. Anna Brandon, Dr. Rebecca Siegel, and Dr. Tory Eisenlohr-Moul for helping to refine the group therapy materials and Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody for supporting the development of our perinatal psychotherapy service at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill.

Compliance with ethical standards



Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

Not applicable. No data presented as part of this paper.

Informed consent

Not applicable. No data presented as part of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.UNC Department of PsychiatryChapel HillUSA

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