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ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

ACT - learn to take committed action in Palo AltoAcceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT (pronounced as the word “act”) uses uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to help clients improve. ACT is one of the  acceptance and mindfulness based approaches commonly referred to as part of the “Third Wave of Behavior Therapy”.

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, clients are not seen as damaged or flawed.Unwanted experiences are not defined as “symptoms” or “problems”.

What You Can Achieve With ACT?

Using skills learned in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, clients can learn commitment to making changes. Clients can learn how to self-manage when sticking to goals becomes difficult or impossible. As a result of therapy, clients may be able to experience a fuller, more vibrant life.

An important goal of therapy is to help the client attain psychological flexibility. On a very practical level, psychological flexibility can be defined simply as “the ability to be present, open up, and do what matters.”

ACT and Behavior

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy,  behavior is defined to include private activity – such as thoughts, emotions and memories – as well as public activity or actions. In therapy, clients learn to assess behaviors in terms of how they can contribute to building a rich and meaningful life.

Clients will not learn, in  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, to directly change or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings. Instead, therapy will seek to help clients gain the skills needed to develop a new mindful relationship about unwanted thoughts or feelings. As a result, clients can learn to unlock their potential and take action consistent with their chosen values. Values clarification is a key component in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

While Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps people to better control their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories and other private events, ACT seeks to enable clients to accept and embrace private events, especially unwanted events

Six Core Processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Six overlapping core processes help clients attain goals in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

  • Contact with the present moment
    How to notice, accept, and embrace private events, especially previously unwanted events.
  • Self-as-context
    Helps clients get in touch with a transcendent sense of self – the “you” that is observing and experiencing and yet distinct from your own thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories.
  • Defusion
    Attempt to alter the undesirable functions of thoughts and other private events. ACT does not try to alter the form, frequency or other characteristics of the private events.
  • Acceptance
    Acceptance is not the same as approval. Acceptance does not involve attempts to change. Acceptance is a skill that therapy seeks to develop through mindfulness exercises.
  • Values
    Help clarify your  values.
  • Committed action
    Help in taking action on your values.

ACT Challenges the “Healthy Normality” Assumption

Western psychology operates under an assumption that  humans are, by nature, psychologically healthy. This is referred to as the “healthy normality” assumption.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy takes an alternative assumption, presuming instead that the normal human psychological processes are often destructive.  The core conception is that psychological rigidity results, in turn triggering failure to undertake the behaviors need to align with core values. ACT summarizes views the core of the problem with the acronym FEAR:

  • Fusion with your thoughts
  • Evaluation of experience
  • Avoidance of your experience
  • Reason-giving for your behavior

In turn, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy proposes its own acronym for how to deal with FEAR, ACT:

  • Accept your reactions and be present
  • Choose a valued direction
  • Take action

For more information about ACT, especially information of a more academic nature, you may want to visit the website of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science.

Take The Next Step

If you want to move your life forward, and embrace the wide spectrum of life experiences, including the painful experiences that inevitably accompany life, ACT may be a treatment that works for you.  Contact Dr. Weiss today to explore the treatment that can work for you. Just call, or fill in the contact form and click Send.