What is acceptance and commitment therapy?
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is mindfulness-based, value-based behavioural therapy with many parallels to Buddhism but in a less religious way. It is a modern scientific approach based on the latest research in human behavioural psychology. ACT is not fundamentally different from other behavioural therapies, but it emphasizes acceptance of avoidance in a way that differs from many other therapies. Treatment seeks to incorporate acceptance and mindfulness into the process without undermining excessive character by creating a conscious, present and flexible approach to psychological experiences, and it seeks to strengthen engagement and behavioural change in the process of improving value-oriented action.
Acceptance and commitment Therapy (ACT) teaches mindfulness skills that help individuals live and behave in a way that is consistent with their personal values and helps develop psychological flexibility. ACT’s goal is to help clients choose concrete behaviours that define their values in the face of difficult, disruptive cognitive and psychological events. The goal of ACT is not to eliminate difficult feelings, but to be present in life and bring us closer to valuable behaviour.
Behaving according to our values reduces anxiety
ACT is not an attempt to change or to stop unwanted thoughts and feelings, but encourages people to develop new and compassionate relationships with themselves and others. This frees people from the difficulty of controlling their experiences and helps them become more open to actions that are consistent with their values. Defining value-based objectives is a key component of ACT.
The aim is to help clients commit to measures that support them in their long-term goals of living a life in accordance to their values. Values are instantiated as never-before-achieved objects or concrete goals, and are consistent with ACT protocols that include therapy, work, homework, and associated short-, medium-, and long-term behavioural change goals. In ACT the goal of interventions in health and behavioural change is not to replace previous unhealthy psychological events with new healthy events but rather to cultivate and accept the occurrence of an unhealthy psychological event, to strictly adhere to it, to regard it for what it is and the thoughts in which our minds become locked, and to merge it with committed actions and behaviours that support a life that serves predetermined healthy values.
ACT differs from other types of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that teaches people to control their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories and other private events better, because ACT teaches people to perceive and accept their private events, even the unwanted ones. It aims to help each individual to clarify their personal values and to take measures to give their lives more vitality and meaning and to increase their psychological flexibility. Clients learn to re-contextualize and accept private events and develop greater clarity of personal values before committing to necessary behavioural changes.