What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT Therapy?
Acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT therapy is a technique in psychotherapy that promotes the acceptance of negative thoughts, feelings, and events.
Acceptance and commitment therapy involves a combination of acceptance and mindfulness.
- Acceptance: Acceptance strategies help a person to welcome attitude toward their emotions, external events, and thoughts. It does not change a person’s emotions but accepts to control them.
- Mindfulness: This involves focusing on the present and observing thoughts and feelings without judgment. It turns the focus of the patient completely on the present.
ACT is built on the idea that illness, pain, grief, and disappointments are an inevitable part of human life.(1) It aims to bring psychological flexibility to the person and help them address the challenges instead of trying to suppress and eliminate them. It can be helpful for a person with depression, anxiety, and other mental health condition. Acceptance and commitment therapy also proves to be a good treatment for psychosis, chronic pain, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
How Does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT Therapy Work?
ACT practitioner with the help of various exercises helps a person gain flexibility.(1) The exercises help in practicing six core skills of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which include:
- Living in the present moment purposefully and being mindful of sensations, thoughts, feelings, and actions.
- Keeping a balanced perspective on feelings and thoughts so that the painful and difficult thoughts do not trigger an avoidance behavior that a person takes to avoid them.
- Give a definition of the essential values and goals of a person.
- Commitment to do things with basic values and goals.
- Accepting unwanted and unpleasant feelings that go along with taking difficult actions, especially those that are in line with a person’s core values.
- Practicing cognitive diffusion involves stepping back from the disruptive or negative thoughts that interfere with a person’s values and learning.
Core or the essential values are a person’s highest priorities in life such as honesty, loyalty, and compassion.
Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT Therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy has many uses and benefits and is known to be helpful to people in coping with:
Acceptance and commitment therapy may help people modify their thoughts and activities, which may be helpful in diseases such as diabetes and vascular conditions.
ACT sessions can successfully promote healthy behaviors such as quitting smoking, exercising more, maintaining a moderate weight, and eating healthy food.
Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT Therapy Effective?
Research suggests Acceptance and commitment therapy is a feasible and effective treatment that can be included by a healthcare professional in existing medical and mental health care situations associated with improvements in:(1)
- Mental health
- Medical and behavioral outcomes
- Quality of life
- Overall functioning
How is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT Therapy Different from Cognitive Behavior Therapy?
ACT or Acceptance and commitment therapy is very different from cognitive behavior therapy. According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive behavior therapy focuses on changing thoughts rather than accepting them.(2) In cognitive behavior therapy, it is believed that unhelpful ways of thinking and learned patterns of unwanted behaviors can lead to psychological problems. It believes in changing their thoughts can help people with mental health conditions to lessen symptoms.
Cognitive behavior therapy can be effective in treating conditions such as:
Acceptance and commitment therapy is acceptance and commitment therapy that involves teaching a person how to accept their emotions and thoughts instead of avoiding them. It can be a great tool to manage unpleasant thoughts. It teaches people how to be mindful and accept thoughts while acting in line with core values.