Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

When something bad happens to us, our natural reaction is to reject it.

Whether that means telling ourselves it didn’t happen (a.k.a. denial), or letting it take hold of our lives through negative beliefs, rejecting what is can create a whole host of issues and problems in our lives. 

But what if there was a different way?

What if the best way to get through your trauma or struggles was by wholeheartedly accepting them?

Sounds like a crazy—and maybe unappealing—idea, but let’s go with it.

This wild concept is actually a scientifically proven method called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

ACT is a type of mindfulness-based therapy that focuses on your behavior and the context in which it occurs. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’s 3 core values are accepting your reactions and being present, choosing a desired direction, and taking action to move in the desired direction.  

Utilizing ACT, your therapist will focus on understanding your current problems while also considering your past and present environment and how those things are contributing to your problems. 

In order to transform your pain, it’s absolutely vital to feel into and understand it rather than running away, ignoring, or avoiding it. 

The goals of ACT are to help you objectively understand what you’re feeling and thinking, according to your values and desired outcomes, while also taking into consideration your past experiences in a way that helps you make peace with them.

Another important goal of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is developing psychological flexibility.

Psychological flexibility is defined simply as the ability to be present with your experience, open up emotionally, and do what matters to you.

 

ACT HAS BEEN PROVEN TO BE SUCCESSFUL FOR:

  • Depression
  • Social anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Agoraphobia
  • Psychosis
  • Work stress
  • Chronic pain
  • Smoking
  • Trichotillomania
  • Self-harm

 

THE CORE PRINCIPLES OF ACT

The core principles of ACT are overlapping and interconnected, not separate: 

  1. Creative hopelessness. Creative hopelessness refers to the process of helping you make contact with the costs, pain, and consequences of your avoidant behavior in order to serve as motivation for change. Through recognition of the workability or lack of workability of your attempts to solve your problems, ACT creates an opportunity for you to reconcile your behavior with your deeper values and act in a way that’s consistent with what is most important to you.
  2. Accepting your emotional experience. Accepting your emotional experience can be described as the process of learning to experience the range of human emotions with a kind, open, and accepting perspective, rather than trying to push away unpleasant feelings or avoid them. Accepting your emotional experience deepens our self-awareness, helps us live more authentically, and cultivates greater peace. 
  3. Choosing valued life directions. Choosing valued life directions is the process of defining what is most important in life and clarifying how you want to live your life and act in accordance with your higher values. 
  4. Taking action. Taking action refers to your commitment to making changes and engaging in behaviors that move you toward your valued life directions. 

ACT’s core principles are developed through the direct experience of what is most helpful and important to you. 

 

HOW ACT WORKS

ACT emphasizes the importance of accepting a situation that’s out of your hands such as a personality trait that may be hard to control or an emotion that may take over against our will. 

ACT focuses on coming to terms with reality and working with the cards that you’re dealt.

In other words, accepting what is.  

This means allowing yourself to feel your feelings or think your thoughts without needing to change or act on them, allowing yourself to be imperfect, and allowing your emotions, feelings, and reactions to just be

ACT isn’t just about getting rid of your symptoms. 

Rather, we focus on changing your relationship with your symptoms, which can lead to powerful shifts.

When we change how we relate to our symptoms rather than simply trying to make them go away, we change our experience of ourselves and our problems.

This creates resiliency. 

After all, the more you fight against certain things, the more power and energy you give them. 

As the old saying goes, “what you resist, persists.” 

Retooling your personal interpretations of events and creating new narratives about your experiences can completely change your life.

So often, we get stuck in a limited way of thinking that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As we work together to teach you new ways of seeing yourself, others, and your life, you will experience a greater sense of freedom, peace, and vitality.  

 

THE SIX CORE PROCESSES OF ACT

ACT looks at six interrelated processes: acceptance, defusion, contact with the present moment, self as context, values, and committed action.

Let’s break these skills down for you:

  1. Acceptance: ACT teaches acceptance as an alternative to avoidance. That means when you’re experiencing an emotion, you are encouraged to fully embrace it, acknowledge it, and let it pass through you rather than trying to push it away or avoid it.
  2. Defusion: ACT allows you to change the way you interact with or relate to a negative thought or situation, eventually diminishing the believability of it.
  3. Staying Present: ACT teaches you to stay in the present moment when a negative thought or situation is occurring. By remaining present, you have more control over your response and behaviors.
  4. Self as Context: ACT focuses on the human language and the relational frames, such as ‘I’ versus ‘You.’ By recognizing the role you play in a situation through distinct language, you can begin to detach from it. This skill is enforced through mindfulness techniques, metaphors, and experiential processes.
  5. Values: ACT teaches that values are qualities of an action that can’t be obtained as an object, but can be realized moment to moment. We will help you determine your values and begin to take responsibility for you aligning your actions with them.
  6. Committed Action: ACT promotes creating long-term behavioral patterns of effective action that are in line with your values. We will provide you pragmatic strategies and practices to meet your goals. 

Using these six processes, you will be able to better understand yourself and therefore accomplish your goals and aspirations.

Acceptance does not mean you have to like your experience or current conditions. 

Instead, acceptance explores the concept of willingness to experience our feelings “fully and without defense,” whatever those feelings are––pleasant or unpleasant.  

Through ACT, we recognize the importance of taking responsibility for what is within our control and accepting that which is not. 

Our ACT-trained therapists are ready to help you take empowered action to achieve your goals and discover a greater sense of peace, vitality, and freedom. 

 

OUR THERAPY METHODS

Therapy can successfully improve your life by helping you minimize your anxiety, identify and changing underlying thought and behavioral patterns that contribute to your struggles, and provide you with strategies to decrease discomfort while restoring an overall sense of peace.

ACT is an evidence-based, scientifically proven intervention that is demonstrated by research to be effective in addressing a wide range of psychological issues including depression, anxiety, and addiction, among many others.

Learn more about our empirically based therapy modalities by visiting our Methods page. 

 

WANT TO TALK? SPEAK WITH AN ACT EXPERT NOW 

If you have any questions, contact one of our ACT specialists for a free consultation any time.

 

RESOURCES

  1. Psychology Today
  2. GoodTherapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Therapists

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