A randomized controlled trial of acceptance and commitment therapy for aggressive behavior

Amie Zarling*, Erika Lawrence, James Marchman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of the current research was to test the efficacy of a group-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention for partner aggression, compared with a support and discussion control group, in a clinical sample of adults. Method: One hundred one participants (mean age = 31; 68% female; 18% minority) who endorsed recently engaging in at least 2 acts of partner aggression were randomly assigned to receive ACT or a support-and-discussion control condition. Both interventions consisted of 12 weekly 2-hr sessions. Assessments at pretreatment, during treatment, posttreatment, and 3 and 6 months after treatment measured psychological aggression (Multidimensional Measure Emotional Abuse Scale [MMEA]), physical aggression (Conflict Tactics Scales [CTS-2]), experiential avoidance (Avoidance and Action Questionnaire [AAQ]), and emotion dysregulation (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale [DERS]). Results: Results of growth curve modeling analyses demonstrated that participants in the ACT group had significantly greater declines in psychological and physical aggression from pre- to posttreatment and from pretreatment to follow-up and that 6-month treatment outcomes were partially mediated by levels of experiential avoidance and emotion dysregulation at posttreatment. Conclusions: The results of this first trial of ACT for aggressive behavior indicate that the ACT group significantly reduced both physical and psychological aggression and that these changes were significantly greater than those of the control group, suggesting that an ACT approach to aggression may serve as an efficacious treatment for aggression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-212
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Aggression
  • Randomized controlled trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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