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What is Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)?

Updated: Feb 23, 2023


An image asking what is acceptance and commitment therapy ACT

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, known as ACT, is often referred to as a third wave CBT approach.


Traditional CBT focuses on changing our perspective & our behaviours/actions in order to address our particular individual difficulties.


In contrast, ACT helps us to change our relationship with our internal experiences (thoughts, emotions, & bodily sensations) so that we can unhook ourselves from their grip and get back into the driving seat to live a rich & meaningful life.


ACT combines mindfulness based skills with the practice of self-acceptance & self-compassion.


It helps people learn how to live in the present moment, accept their thoughts and feelings, and take action towards their values and goals. It's based on the idea that many of our problems in life stem from our attempts to avoid or control uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. When we try to suppress or ignore these experiences, we often end up feeling worse in the long run. Instead, ACT teaches us to acknowledge and accept these experiences as a normal part of being human, and to focus on what really matters in our lives.


ACT is rooted in several key principles:


1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment, without judgment or distraction. By developing mindfulness skills, we can learn to be more aware of our thoughts and feelings, and better able to respond to them in a healthy way.


2. Acceptance: Acceptance means acknowledging and accepting our thoughts and feelings, even if they are uncomfortable or unwanted. This doesn't mean that we have to like or agree with them, but rather that we allow them to be present without trying to change them.


3. Values: Values are the things that are most important to us in life, such as relationships, health, work, or creativity. By identifying our values and living in accordance with them, we can find a greater sense of purpose and meaning in our lives.


4. Committed Action: Committed action means taking steps towards our values and goals, even in the face of discomfort or uncertainty. By taking action towards what we truly care about, we can create a more fulfilling and satisfying life.


ACT is used to treat a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and addiction. It's also been shown to be effective for improving relationships, work performance, and overall life satisfaction.


So if you're struggling with negative thoughts and emotions, consider giving ACT a try. By learning to accept your experiences and focus on what really matters in your life, you can overcome your challenges and live a more fulfilling life.


The Association for Contextual Behavioural Science (ACBS) is an online worldwide learning and research community. If you are interested in finding out more about ACT then you can find a huge amount of information on their website.



Photo credit: Szabo Viktor on Unsplash

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