Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a third wave of behavioural therapy.
What is ACT?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) could be described as a branch that has grown from the tree of behavioural therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is known as the ‘second wave” of behavioural therapies. This third wave represents further evolution of behavioural therapy and functions as a complement to them as opposed to a replacement. The name “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” contains some hints about what it is all about, which is ultimately, getting you to a place of acceptance for the things you can’t control and getting you to commit to short and long term actions that will have positive impacts on your everyday life. With ACT, the underlying assumption is that we will try to avoid emotions that are challenging to experience, however this can lead to a dissonance between what we want or what is helpful and what seems to happen automatically. ACT is comprised of six processes that increase the ability to practice psychological flexibility.
1. Acceptance - To accept all thoughts and feelings
2. Cognitive Defusion - To become aware of thoughts, without engagement or avoidance
3. Having awareness in the present - To become aware of psychological events, restraining from judgement about the event
4. Self as Context - To become aware of your personal experience
5. Values - To understand what is important to you
6. Committed Action - To gain skills that break down psychological barriers
What is the goal of ACT?
The goal of ACT is not to attempt to change how you feel about a particular circumstance or situation and instead it is about moving towards acknowledging your emotions and understanding that difficult emotions will arise as we move through life, accepting this can help us to keep moving forward as opposed to becoming stuck. By empowering us to accept discomfort in our lives, the ultimate goal of ACT is to lead to a decrease in psychological symptoms and an increase in contentment in life.
What can ACT help with?
ACT can be implemented to help people struggling with a variety of mental and physical conditions for example:
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Eating disorders
- Substance use
- Chronic pain
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog! If you would like professional help navigating any of the issues mentioned above or any other key area of your life, feel free to contact us.