What is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a relatively new form of behavioural therapy that combines acceptance and mindfulness strategies to help with psychological problems and unhealthy patterns in clients' personal and working lives.  

ACT therapy takes the view that by accepting negative thoughts and feelings, individuals can choose a valued direction in which to take action and make positive changes. In this way, acceptance and commitment therapy does not aim to directly change or stop unwanted problems and experiences. Instead it teaches individuals to develop a mindful relationship with them - promoting a psychological flexibility that encourages healthy contact with thoughts, reconnection with the here and now, realisation of personal values, and commitment to behaviour change.


Who benefits from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)?

There is an increasing body of empirical evidence that ACT is beneficial for clients with depression, anxiety disorders, addiction, chronic pain, PTSD, eating disorders, and even schizophrenia. ACT is also a very effective model for life coaching and executive coaching.


Welldoing.org therapist John McKenzie:

"What I find ACT particularly helpful for is in people who have struggled with CBT because they’ve become enmeshed in their own thoughts. If CBT has sent someone into a spiral of thinking about their thinking about their thinking, and so on, then ACT can be a revelation for them.  Instead of grappling with every thought you learn to move through them. After all, a fish doesn’t handle all that water, it just swims through it.

People who have struggled, or who want, to be authentic really respond to ACT.  Living in tune with your own values, along with compassion, naturally lead to you valuing yourself along with other people.  It’s as much a frame of mind and an approach to living as it is a therapy.  ACT isn’t just an intervention, it’s a basis for long-term emotional wellbeing.

 Whether ACT is for you or not, the fact remains that avoidance doesn’t work, and ACT explicitly acknowledges that it makes our suffering worse.  The idea of non-avoidance, and of accepting situations and feelings of anxiety, can seem scary or totally unachievable.  All we ask is that people are open to trying, and it can be small steps at first.  Once you’ve started to let go of avoidance the move from frightened to exhilarated can be intense.”



Lasts updated on September 4 2015