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Hosted by a team of experts, Short Takes on Suicide Prevention breaks down the science behind preventing suicide, developing treatments that work and saving lives. Produced by the VA Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) for Veteran Suicide Prevention, this podcast is featured in the VA Podcast Network. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not endorse or officially sanction any entities that may be discussed in this podcast, nor any media, products or services they may provide.

Jul 31, 2021

Suicide prevention is a worthy goal itself, but it’s about more than stopping just one suicidal event – it’s also important to address the emotional pain underlying suicide and build a meaningful life that’s truly worth living. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, known as ACT, is a therapy approach that helps people experience their emotions in a new way, take perspective on their thoughts and build a more meaningful life. 

Is ACT a useful approach for addressing suicide? In this episode, Dr. Sean Barnes, clinical research psychologist at the VA Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Suicide Prevention, talks with guest host Dr. Debbie Sorensen about his research on ACT for Life, a new treatment designed to help Veterans respond effectively to suicidal thoughts and actions using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. 

In this episode, Barnes and Sorensen discuss: 

  • What ACT is, and why its approach to suicide is unique
  • Sean’s intervention, ACT for Life, and how he and his colleagues are targeting suicidal behavior from a contextual behavioral approach
  • Current research on ACT 
  • Responding to suicide-related thoughts using ACT
  • The importance of values in building a life worth living

Article:  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Promote Recovery from suicidal crises: A Randomized Controlled Acceptability and Feasibility Trial of ACT for life


About Sean Barnes: Sean M. Barnes, Ph.D. is a clinical research psychologist at the VA Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC) for Veteran Suicide Prevention and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. Sean is a consultant for the Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Risk Management Consultation Program and an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Depression provider and training consultant. He is also the principal investigator of the ACT for Life study, testing a brief ACT protocol for maximizing recovery after suicidal crises. Other aspects of Sean’s research focus on the use of contextual behavioral interventions for moral injury, and the study of suicide risk assessment, but all his projects share a common goal of alleviating suffering and helping others build vital meaningful lives.