Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

Monday, January 30, 2023 @ 4:26 PM

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that emphasizes acceptance as a way to deal with negative thoughts, feelings, symptoms, or circumstances. It also encourages increased commitment to healthy, constructive activities that uphold your values or goals.

ACT therapists operate under a theory that suggests that increasing acceptance can lead to increased psychological flexibility. This approach carries a host of benefits, and it may help people stop habitually avoiding certain thoughts or emotional experiences, which can lead to further problems.

Unlike cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the goal of ACT is not to reduce the frequency or severity of unpleasant internal experiences like upsetting cognitive distortions, emotions, or urges. Rather, the goal is to reduce your struggle to control or eliminate these experiences while simultaneously increasing your involvement in meaningful life activities (i.e., those activities that are consistent with your personal values).

This process involves six components:

Acceptance: This means allowing your inner thoughts and feelings to occur without trying to change them or ignore them. Acceptance is an active process.

Cognitive defusion: Cognitive defusion is the process of separating yourself from your inner experiences. This allows you to see thoughts simply as thoughts, stripped of the importance that your mind adds to them.

Self as context: This involves learning to see your thoughts about yourself as separate from your actions.

Being present: ACT encourages you to stay mindful of your surroundings and learn to shift your attention away from internal thoughts and feelings.

Values: These are the areas of your life that are important enough to you to motivate action.

Commitment: This process involves changing your behavior based on principles covered in therapy.

ACT may be effective in treating:

Eating disorders
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Substance use

One core benefit of ACT is the impact it has on psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility is the ability to embrace your thoughts and feelings when they are useful and to set them aside when they are not. This allows you to thoughtfully respond to your inner experience and avoid short-term, impulsive actions, focusing instead on living a meaningful life.

Psychological flexibility can improve your ability to accept and function with symptoms of conditions like anxiety or depression. Often, those symptoms may lessen significantly as a result of this, increase in psychological flexibility,

ACT is sometimes referred to as a "third wave" or "new wave" psychotherapy. The term "third wave" treatment refers to a broad spectrum of psychotherapies that also includes:

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
Schema therapy
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

Historically, third-wave treatments were seen as particularly appropriate for people who were not benefiting from pre-existing treatments like classical CBT. However, it is now believed that for some individuals, a third-wave therapy option may make sense as a first-line treatment.