Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a new form of Cognitive Behavioural therapy that has been found to be useful for many people with different issues. The basic idea that ACT builds on is that the way we think about things is the key to many psychological problems. Also the way we make sense of our feelings is the key to internal freedom. Feelings can be a useful guide or abarrier to reaching out. Getting a better handle on feelings is at the core of becoming more of what we want to be and less of what we don't want to be.
If we can get a clearer view of how our thinking can sometimes be unhelpful we can start to understand how it can be helpful. Actually the thinking process is important but it goes deeper than this. This concerns the sense we make of the world and how we imagine or conceptualise our “self:” in this process. All these issues are worked through in the process of acceptance and commitment therapy. Although it is possible to give a brief summary the most important psychological breakthroughs occur through experience – actually developing a different view and a different feeling about your experience. For this reason acceptance and commitment therapy focus on experiential learning rather that theoretical or book learning.
Acceptance and Commitment therapy focuses on six core psychological processes that together and individually help build psychological “flexibility” or freedom:
Acceptance – a subtle shift in your attitude or posture to experience so there is less reactivity and less negativity (not wanting what you can’t change) and more acknowledgement, allowing and tolerance. This is not about putting up with a bad or destructive situation but having the power not to be irritated by things that you face in your life that are not pleasant for you.
Defusion - seeing thoughts as thoughts without identifying with them or giving them undue weight. This is a key process that gives you a sense of inner freedom to step back from the clatter and the chatter of your mind. By doing this it is possible to become more appreciative and understanding of how thoughts are just ideas which may be more or less useful to us.
Being in the present moment. Developing mindfulness - the capacity to observe thoughts feelings and all aspects of experience in the present moment. This puts you in a more flexible and ultimately powerful position in relation to your thoughts and feelings.
Seeing the “self “as a context or organizing principle rather than a set role or firm identity. Allowing a more flexible view of yourself provides a better base for inner and outer freedom.
Clarifying values, understanding the importance of personal values in helping you establish what changes you want to pursue in your life. Making a commitment to take action consistent with values that have been chosen. A number of books and web based resources are available if you want to look further.
A number of books and web based resources are available if you want to look further. Probably the two most well know books are: “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris and “Get out of your mind and into your life” by Steve Hayes. Many more ACT books can be found if you just type in “Acceptance and commitment therapy” into google books. You can purchase the books locally or for a bigger range – order online through a site such as or
In terms of websites two worth mentioning are the one developed by Russ Harris - this has a range of materials. The main ACT site is This site again has masses of resources.
ACT is a versatile and effective psychological therapy. Success is achieved through actual experience and developing a personal understanding of what works for you. Indeed the concept of “workability” is central to ACT work – this means looking at every situation with the question – does this work for me? – or - how well does this work for m? It is an intelligent and thoughtful approach which invites your active participation.