Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a third wave behavioural therapy that uses acceptance and mindfulness skills and commitment to behaviour change to develop psychological flexibility and helps clarify and direct values-guided behaviour. The aim of ACT is to maximise human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life.

ACT is based on Relational Frame Therapy, a comprehensive theory of language and cognition. ACT differs from traditional cognitive behaviour therapy in that instead of teaching people to control their thoughts, feelings, actions and other private events, ACT teaches us to notice, accept and embrace them while moving in the direction of your values. ACT teaches you to let go of ‘debating’ with thoughts. It does not attempt to directly change or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings (as in cognitive behaviour therapy) but to notice and let go of unhelpful and distracting thoughts while moving towards your values in life. Thus, Mindfulness and Values are key components to ACT.

The core conception of ACT is that psychological suffering is usually caused by experiential avoidance and cognitive entanglement. Accepting thoughts and detaching from them reduces human suffering. For example, if someone is getting caught up thinking, ‘’I’m a bad person’’ they might be instructed to say ‘’I am having the thought that I’m a bad person’’. This effectively separates the person from the cognition, thereby reducing its negative charge. As well as defusing from unhelpful thoughts it helps us to see that thoughts are thoughts driven by fear and not facts. 

ACT Teaches The Following Skills

(1.) Defusion:Helping you to gain distance from your unhelpful thoughts and learning techniques to let these thoughts go.
(2.) Acceptance: Helping you to accept uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. Allowing thoughts to come and go without struggling with them. Rather than avoiding or suppressing painful emotions and thoughts the skill of acceptance helps you to make room and relate to them in healthier ways.
(3.) Mindfulness: Helping you to cultivate a calmer mind. Brining your attention to the present moment.
What will therapy look like?

During ACT therapy you will work collaboratively with your psychologist in a 50 minute session. Clients will work towards letting go of past unworkable solutions such as avoidance, suppression and control and work towards making healthy contact with thoughts, feelings, memories, and physical sensations that have been feared and avoided. Additionally, clients will develop greater clarity about their personal values and commit to behaviour change. Therapy will consist of teaching skills, experiential exercises, building awareness and commitment to change.

Evidence based approach:

ACT is an evidence based therapy with over 60 randomised control trials. It has shown evidence for effectiveness in randomized control trials for a variety of problems including anxiety, depression, self- harm, eating disorders, work place stress, substance use and pain management.

Recommended Reading:

  • ”Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’’ (2005) by Steven Hayes & Spencer Smith.
  • ”ACT Made Simple: An Easy-to-Read Primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’’ (2009) by Russ Harris.
  • ”The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living’’ (2008) by Russ Harris.
  • ”Living Beyond your Pain: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Ease Chronic Pain’’(2006) by JoAnne Dahl, Steven Hayes & Tobias Lundgren.

If you would like to engage in a course of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at The Consulting Clinic, please call the clinic on: 01 6859261 or email: admin@theconsultingclinic.ie