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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Dementia caregiving is associated with negative physical and psychological health consequences. Multicomponent, behavioural, and psychotherapeutic interventions for reducing caregivers’ distress, particularly the cognitive-behavioural ones, present the greatest effect sizes, but nevertheless these effects are only moderate. The third wave of behavioural therapies and, specifically acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), offers interesting therapeutic tools aimed at fostering the acceptance of aversive internal experiences and the commitment to personal values. Given the chronic nature of the caregiving situation and the unchangeability of many of its elements (e.g. feeling sadness or grief), ACT represents a promising and potentially helpful therapeutic approach to help dementia caregivers to decrease their emotional distress. Very few studies have so far analysed the efficacy of ACT or some of its components (e.g. mindfulness) in this population, but these provide some preliminary support for the utility of this approach in improving caregivers’ psychological well-being. Assuming the need for further research in order to consider ACT as an empirically validated therapy for dementia caregivers, in this chapter we analyse, in the context of caregiving, the psychological processes highlighted in the ACT model of psychopathology, such as experiential avoidance, describing examples of them in cases of caregivers we have assisted in our clinical work, and outlining ACT-based therapeutic strategies that we have found useful on a clinical basis for modifying them.

Keywords: dementia, caregiving, acceptance and commitment therapy, depression, third-generation therapies

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