Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in daily life for carers of people with dementia

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Netherlands Netherlands Maastricht University

Early Stage Researcher (ESR5)

ESR5: photo of Golnaz Atefi

Golnaz Atefi

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Prof. Frans Verhey

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Prof. Marjolein De Vugt

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Hi, I am delighted to be working with the Alzheimer center of Limburg on the DISTINCT project. In particular, I am going to work on ‘Acceptance and commitment therapy in daily life of carers of people with dementia’.

I earned my bachelor’s degree from Razi University of Kermanshah-Iran in Psychology. I completed an Erasmus plus program at the King’s college of London-UK during my masters and I have graduated from Padova University of Italy with a master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience and clinical neuropsychology.

Throughout my practice, I developed a particular interest in neurodegenerative diseases, Psychological intervention, neuropsychological assessment and data analysis. I feel lucky that my project is a combination of all my research interests.

Start date October 2019
Duration 36 months


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Caring for a person with dementia is associated with emotions, difficulties, demands, and losses that are to a large extent unchangeable. There is an urgent need for interventions that promote the ability to manage life in dementia, by focusing on the acceptance of, and adaptation to adverse external and internal experiences. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) could increase the acceptance of negative feelings and thoughts related to caregiving and to help people with dementia and their caregivers find ways to live their lives, according to their wishes and values. ACT addresses an important social health concept focusing on positive characteristics and capacities, rather than deficits. The project aims to extend ACT to everyday life by integrating momentary assessment technology in the therapeutic process which could; help to adopt the skills of ACT during daily life and apply them effectively when encountering daily challenges, and promote awareness of internal and external experiences and the relationship between experiences and context.

Expected Results

The ESR will evaluate the feasibility and effects of the extended ACT program on caregivers’ psychological flexibility, and quality of life of both the caregiver and person with dementia. Wearable technology will explore daily stress levels in caregivers. This project illuminate the potential of ACT plus momentary assessment/wearable technology to support caregivers and people with dementia with social health, and the added value of momentary assessment technology to supplement existing psychological interventions in dementia care. The extended ACT program has already shown to be promising in mental health care patients. This project includes adaptation of ACT, a feasibility study and preliminary effect evaluation to assess caregivers’ experiences to identify barriers/ facilitators for future implementation.

Planned secondment(s)

Two of 3 months each. The first in year one to VUB-BE to exchange knowledge on momentary assessment technology, the second in year 3 with technology partner Silverfit.



Golnaz Atefi, Sara Laureen Bartels, Tessa O.C. Kilkens, Frans R.J. Verhey, Marjolein E. de Vugt. How do Acceptance and Commitment Therapy interventions work for informal caregivers? A Systematic Review. PROSPERO 2020, CRD42020186450. Available here.


Atefi, G., Bartels, S.L., Van Knippenberg, R.J.M., Levin, M.E., Kilkens, T.O.C., Verhey, F.R.J., & De Vugt, M.E. (2020, October 20-22). The potential utility of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for informal caregivers of people with dementia: A systematic review [Poster presentation]. 30th Alzheimer Europe Conference, Bucharest, Romania.