Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a modern behavioral therapy that aims to help people build a rich and purposeful lives.. The overarching goal of ACT is to create “psychological flexibility,” which means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being and moving in a direction that is in the service of our chosen values.
Psychological suffering develops out of our attempts to avoid and control the natural pain of life. Emotional avoidance over time can lead to a narrowed, rule-driven, unsatisfying existence. What in the short term brought relief from difficult feelings can in the long term destroy lives.
ACT offers the opportunity to learn something in our suffering.
From the ACT perspective, people are not broken—rather, they are stuck. ACT is focused on helping people change their relationship with difficult feelings, thoughts, memories and sensations so they are free to make the choices toward living valued life.
ACT includes the following components:
Values: Values are the direction we want to move on our life’s compass. We experience deep dissatisfaction when there is discrepancy between what matters to us and our current actions. ACT helps us clarify our values and identify the actions we could take so that we are living more congruently.
Mindfulness/Present Moment Focus: Mindfulness involves being fully present, in this moment, as opposed to focusing on the past or future. Mindfulness cultivates flexible, voluntary and purposeful attention to the now.
Cognitive Work (Cognitive Defusion): The ability to be able to “think about how we think” is a key part of cognitive flexibility. Cognitive defusion teaches us to step back from thoughts and perceptions, learn to notice how the mind works, and decide which thoughts are helpful to you.
Self-as-Context: Self-as-context involves building our awareness of the ‘observing self’ and working on letting go of attachment to a conceptualized self.
Acceptance: Acceptance involves opening up to all our experiences, even difficult ones. It is a state of willingness, curiosity, and expansion that allows us to be present with difficult thoughts, feelings, memories and sensations.
Committed Action: Once someone has identified what is meaningful to them, ACT uses behavioral principles to take concrete steps toward a valued life. Committed action involves engaging in value-directed behavior in the here and now, even in the presence of difficult emotions, thoughts and sensations.