The impact of mindfulness-acceptance-commitment approach on psychological functioning in collegiate student-athletes



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Research has established that student-athletes are disproportionately affected by certain types of psychopathology (e.g., greater prevalence of disordered eating and substance abuse), and recent research suggests that they may also be at increased risk for depressive and anxiety symptoms. Unfortunately, student-athletes tend to underutilize traditional forms of psychological services, resulting in many untreated mental health issues. Research on effective delivery of psychological services to this population is warranted. We examined a group approach formerly used to enhance athletic performance for the purpose of reducing depression, anxiety, and stress in the student-athlete population. All student-athletes at the study institution had the opportunity to participate in a 6-session Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment group (Gardner & Moore, 2007) which emphasized the development of mindfulness, the ability to respond to unwanted thoughts and feelings, and the ability to commit to goals that align with personal values. The prevalence of depression and anxiety were not more common among student-athletes, but approximately 1 in every 3 student-athletes fell into the clinical range for depressive symptoms. Pre- and post-intervention data was analyzed for 22 student-athletes. We found that MAC participation was significantly associated with a reduction in stress. Moreover, the program was well-liked by student-athletes. Although significant differences were not found across the treatment time frame for depression and anxiety, data trended in the hypothesized directions. The current research suggests that MAC is a viable, accessible, and cost-efficient alternative for administrators and athletic directors who wish to bolster psychological care available to their student-athletes.



Depression, Anxiety, Stress, Athletes, College, Students, MAC