Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, posits acceptance as a main way to cope with negative thought patterns, feelings, or circumstances. This therapeutic technique encourages a commitment to healthy, constructive activities that uphold and align with one's values and goals. By demonstrating that these types of thoughts can be dealt with in a more positive light, this can help clients avoid pushing away or avoiding certain thoughts, as they can lead to further problems in the future if left unaddressed. 

What are the techniques used in ACT?

The ultimate goal of ACT is to not reduce the severity or frequency of disturbing/unpleasant internal experiences; rather, the goal is to gain control to maintain/eliminate these experiences while also proactively seeking out meaningful life experiences. ACT is composed of 6 main components:

  • Acceptance --- this involves allowing one's inner thoughts and feelings to occur without attempting to change or ignore them. This is an active process involving resisting the urge to think extensively about thoughts that appear.
  • Cognitive defusion --- involves separating oneself from from inner experiences and taking a more rational, third-person approach to emotions and feelings. This looks like acknowledging that thoughts are just thoughts and do not have to have the importance that one assigns to them. 
  • Self-context --- involves learning to realize that one's thoughts about oneself are distinct from one's actions.
  • Being present --- involves learning to recognize the benefit of paying attention to one's surroundings and shifting awareness from internal thought patterns to the external present environment.
  • Values --- involves taking stock of areas of one's life that are important enough to an individual to motivate them to action.
  • Commitment --- involves learning how to apply principles covered in therapy to one's life outside of the office in novel contexts and changing one's behavior. 

Sessions can also be made up of mindfulness exercises that are meant to create a nonjudgmental, healthy awareness of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories that otherwise would have been avoided without consistent mental practices. 

What are the benefits of ACT?

The main benefit of ACT is an increase in psychological flexibility. This manifests in a more "flexible mental state," in which people have the capacity to embrace thoughts and feelings and recognize when they are being helpful or when they are being harmful to the individual. This allows people to mindfully respond to an inner experience and avoid short-term, impulsive actions; this shifts the focus to living a more meaningful life. 

Here at Madrigal, we are committed to using acceptance and commitment therapy to help you reach your best potential. 

*This information was adapted from Very Well Mind. Click here to learn more information.*