Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a form of behavioural therapy that uses various mindfulness strategies to help us accept the difficulties we face in life.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a form of behavioural therapy that uses various mindfulness strategies to help us accept the difficulties we face in life. It was developed in America during the late 1980s and is gaining recognition as an effective treatment for a range of mental health issues and psychological disorders.

What is ACT?

ACT, which is predominantly a time-limited approach, takes the view that by accepting negative thoughts and feelings, individuals can choose a valued direction in which to take action and make positive changes. In this way, acceptance and commitment therapy does not aim to directly change or stop unwanted problems and experiences.

Instead, it teaches individuals to develop a mindful relationship with them – promoting psychological flexibility that encourages healthy contact with thoughts, reconnection with the here and now, a realisation of personal values, and commitment to behaviour change.

How does ACT work?

ACT involves a range of experiential exercises to reduce the power and significance of damaging emotive, cognitive, and behavioural processes. It aims to help individuals change their relationship with negative thoughts and feelings that are taking over their lives and, in some cases, are greatly impacting their health and well-being.

The approach takes a stand against ‘experiential avoidance’ – the attempt to avoid or get rid of unwanted unpleasant thoughts and feelings – and offers a long-term solution to future health and happiness. This is usually applied in one-to-one sessions with clients or in groups, where metaphors, visualisation exercises and behavioural homework will be used.

The ACT model

Although acceptance and commitment therapy is not a specific set of techniques, there are some core processes that therapists tend to follow. Each of these areas is conceptualised as a positive
psychological skill – they do not serve as a way for individuals to avoid or prevent negative thoughts and feelings.

The acronym that encapsulates the entire model of ACT is:

  • Accept your thoughts and feelings and be present
  • Choose a valued direction
  • Take action

What can ACT help with?

Acceptance and commitment therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of individuals. The empowering message of the approach, to alter the function rather than the existence of unpleasant thoughts and feelings, makes it particularly useful in helping a range of clients. Issues that are often looked at within ACT include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • obsessions and compulsions
  • trauma
  • addictions
  • eating disorders
  • psychotic symptoms


More information can be found at Acceptance and commitment therapy – Wikipedia

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