Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

by / Monday, 06 October 2014 / Published in General
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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) gets it name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. The aim of ACT is to maximise human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life. ACT (which is pronounced as the word ‘act’, not as the initials) does this by:

a) teaching you psychological skills to deal with your painful thoughts and feelings effectively – in such a way that they have much less impact and influence over you (these are known as mindfulness skills).

b) helping you to clarify what is truly important and meaningful to you – i.e your values – then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate you to change your life for the better.

ACT uses a wide range of experiential exercises to undermine the power of destructive cognitive, emotive, and behavioural processes. It helps clients to fundamentally change their relationship with painful thoughts and feelings, to develop a transcendent sense of self, to live in the present, and to take action, guided by their deepest values, to create a rich and meaningful life.

ACT takes the view that most psychological suffering is caused by ‘experiential avoidance’, i.e. by attempting to avoid or get rid of unwanted private experiences (such as unpleasant thoughts, feelings, sensations, urges & memories). Clients’ efforts at experiential avoidance might work in the short term, but in the long term they often fail, and in the process, they often create significant psychological suffering. (For example, think of any serious addiction: in the short term it makes you feel good and helps you get rid of unpleasant thoughts and feelings – but in the long term, it destroys your health and vitality).

In ACT, clients develop mindfulness skills, (both traditional techniques, and many modern, innovative ones) which enable them to fundamentally change their relationship with painful thoughts and feelings. When clients practice these skills in everyday life, painful feelings and unhelpful thoughts have much less impact and influence over them. Therefore, instead of wasting their time and energy in a fruitless battle with their innerexperiences, they can invest their energy in taking action to change their life for the better – guided by their deepest values.

A growing body of empirical data confirms that cultivating acceptance, mindfulness, and openness to experience is highly effective for the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, chronic pain, PTSD, anorexia, and even schizophrenia. ACT is also a very effective model for life coaching and executive coaching. ACT is one of the ‘third wave’ of behaviour therapies, along with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and several others. These therapies comprise a movement in psychology that regard mindfulness and acceptance as important additions to change-oriented treatment strategies.

(Russ Harris, http://www.actmindfully.com.au/acceptance_&_commitment_therapy)

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