Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Dr. Albert Malkin


The present research pilots a brief, online, and self-guided adaptation of an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention for intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) support staff to reduce burnout and psychological distress and increase psychological flexibility and work performance. A randomized waitlist control trial was implemented with an intervention group (n=5) and waitlist control group (n=11). Participants completed a demographic questionnaire, the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire (AAQ-II), the Comprehensive Assessment of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Processes (CompACT), the Maslach Burnout Inventory – Human Service Version (MBI-HS), the Individual Work Performance Questionnaire (IWPQ), and a follow-up feasibility questionnaire. Independent t-tests and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests indicated that the intervention significantly reduced burnout and increased psychological flexibility between-groups and within the waitlist group only. The findings demonstrate preliminary evidence for implementing self-guided and online-based interventions for IDD support staff; and present feasible future directions in enhancing workplace mental health and well-being.

Summary for Lay Audience

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a psychological intervention that helps individuals build skills in mindfulness and acceptance of difficult internal experiences (thoughts, sensations, emotions), and move toward a rich and meaningful life by pursuing valued action. ACT has demonstrated effectiveness in supporting the mental health of a wide range of frontline worker populations across several work-related outcomes. Intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) support staff are frontline workers who experience high rates of burnout, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been observed to benefit from ACT interventions. While brief ACT for IDD support staff has been examined, research is limited in investigating online and self-guided delivery modes. The implementation of ACT can be costly and time-consuming, thus creating barriers to accessibility given IDD support staff’s busy work schedules. Variations of brief, online, and self-guided ACT interventions have been supported in other populations for their cost-effective and flexible implementation. Thus, adapting ACT interventions to feature these aspects simultaneously may be a valuable next step in providing accessible care to IDD support staff. This pilot study examines the effectiveness and feasibility of a brief, online, and self-guided ACT intervention to support the well-being of IDD support staff. Specifically, we examined the intervention’s impact on burnout, psychological distress, psychological flexibility, and work performance.

We adapted a 3-week modularized version of ACT that required approximately 6 hours of direct engagement with content. An intervention (n=5) and waitlist (n=11) group of IDD support staff completed outcome measures pre- and post-intervention, and were compared for treatment effects. Thematic analysis was used to identify key themes and patterns in the qualitative open-ended questions regarding the intervention’s feasibility. The results provide preliminary support for a brief, online, and self-guided ACT to effectively reduce burnout and increase psychological flexibility in a small sample of IDD support staff. Participants held generally favorable attitudes toward ACT for their working role, shared an interest in learning more about ACT, and provided clear future directions for module improvement. These findings could contribute to the development of future online-based interventions for specialized working groups, and to better understand how such delivery modes can benefit IDD support staff.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.