Feel helpless in the face of life? Like you are treading water but never getting ahead? Or suffer from anxiety, depression, or addiction?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) might be for you.

What is ACT therapy?

It’s a psychotherapy that is focused on helping you create an active, meaningful, and forward-moving life, by learning how to let go of what you can’t control and take action on what you can.

Coming under the umbrella of cognitive behaviour therapies, it’s a relatively new therapy that you can do either short or long term.

Key concepts of ACT therapy

Act stands for acceptance and commitment, but the ACT acronym is also used to explain the key ideas of this therapy.

  • Accept your reactions and be present
  • Choose a valued direction
  • Take action.
This adds up to what is referred to as ‘psychological flexibility’. You work to be more present in the here and now, then make choices based on what brings meaning for you personally. This moves you toward feeling good.

Psychological inflexibility

Otherwise we are stuck in psychological inflexibility. We can’t make decisions, and feel trapped by life. Your ACT therapist might use another acronym, FEAR, to describe what this looks like.

Fusion with your thoughts Evaluation of experience Avoidance of your experience Reason giving for your behaviour.

Psychological inflexibility sees us mistaking our thoughts for who we are, and getting stuck in the negative emotions they bring us. We spend all our time thinking about and analysing our experiences and telling the same stories again and again, creating an idea of who we think we are that traps us.

So we either avoid making choices, or make bad ones. Sound familiar?

From inflexible to flexible

ACT therapy gives you a roadmap to becoming psychologically flexible. The steps it offers are:

  1. Being present. This is about learning to focus on the here and now while not comparing things to the past or trying to guess the future.
  2. Cognitive defusion. This means you don’t ‘fuse’ with your thoughts, mistaking them for who you are. You recognise that a negative or anxious thought is just a thought. You can choose to let it pass.
  3. Acceptance. It’s not that you just tolerate painful emotions, but that you stop struggling against them. Instead you learn methods to move forward despite your negative thoughts and feelings.
  4. Observing the self. You learn to see the difference between your thinking self and another, more powerful you that is there, watching this thinking, called the ‘observing self’.
  5. Values. Recognising what truly matters to you personally when all else falls away, then making goals that match these values.
  6. Committed action. Taking action towards value-driven goals, instead of wasting energy on things you can’t control or don’t really care about.

The three main tools of acceptance and commitment therapy

The three main tools of ACT therapy are acceptance, commitment, and mindfulness.

Acceptance means you stop trying to control your thoughts and feelings. Unlike cognitive behavioural therapy, which focuses on helping you recognise then change your thoughts, ACT therapy believes it’s better to not over invest in thoughts. They are just thoughts and feelings, not who you are.

Mindfulness is the tool that really helps to stop over identifying with your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. A practise that helps you be in the present moment, you become more mentally aware and open.

Commitment helps you take better decisions around what you can change. This is about being committed to your values. What choices will move you to a life aligned to them?

What issues does acceptance and commitment therapy help with?

Research shows that ACT therapy is helpful for anxiety, depression, and addiction.

It’s also seen as helpful for:

Is acceptance and commitment therapy for me?

Yes, if you don’t want to dive too much into the past. ACT therapy helps you work on being present, and on navigating current issues.

And it's great if you want to move forward over spend all your time trying to understand yourself. This is not a therapy obsessed with totally understanding yourself, but is more about creating a value-led life and taking action.

It's perfect if you’ve wanted to learn mindfulness for awhile now. Mindfulness is a core concept of ACT therapy. Popular as it is shown to have wide-ranging benefits. If it’s something you are interested in, this might be a great choice of therapy for you.

Ready to try ACT therapy? Use our easy booking tool to find an acceptance and commitment therapist now.

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