Exposure is considered one of the most effective interventions for PTSD. There is a large body of research for the use of imaginal and in vivo exposure in the treatment of PTSD, with prolonged exposure (PE) therapy being the most researched example. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) has sometimes been called an exposure-based treatment, but how exposure is implemented in ACT for PTSD has not been well articulated. Although support for the use of ACT in PTSD treatment is limited to a handful of case studies and open trials, research suggests ACT is particularly useful in flexibly targeting avoidance behavior—arguably the most important process in the continued maintenance of PTSD symptoms. The purpose of this paper is to explore the use of exposure within ACT in PTSD treatment. Through an overview of PE and ACT, and with the use of case examples, we describe how ACT principles and techniques may inform exposure-based treatments for PTSD in order to create more flexible approaches. In addition, understanding exposure within an ACT framework may also contribute to clarifying processes of change.
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We would like to thank Amy Wagner and Michael Twohig for reading and commenting upon earlier drafts of this manuscript. We would also like to thank Monica Bahan for proofreading the final draft.
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Thompson, B.L., Luoma, J.B. & LeJeune, J.T. Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Guide Exposure-Based Interventions for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. J Contemp Psychother 43, 133–140 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-013-9233-0
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Prolonged exposure