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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a branch of cognitive-behavioral therapy, an empirically based psychological intervention, that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.

Goal of ACT: To move in the direction of chosen values, and accept the automatic effects of life's difficulties.

Barriers: Experiential avoidance and cognitive fusion.

Act Stages: Focus on shift from content of experience to context of experience.

Why? To enable clients to pursue valued goals in life.

During Treatment: Metaphors, paradoxes, and experiential exercises are frequently used to undermine the traps of literal language and pliance (requiring both following a rule and detection by the verbal community that the rule and the behavior correspond).

Psychological Flexibility includes:

Mindfulness and Acceptance Processes

Self as Context
Experience as Content

Commitment Processes and Direct Behavior Change

Contact with the Present Moment
Committed Action

ACT Defined: ACT is developed within a pragmatic philosophy called functional contextualism. ACT is based on Relational Frame Theory (RFT) a comprehensive theory of language and cognition that has emerged within behavior analysis. ACT differs from traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in that rather than trying to teach you to better control your thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories and other private events -- ACT focuses on what you can control more directly your arms, legs and mouth. ACT teaches you to "just notice," accept, and embrace your experiences, especially previously unwanted ones. ACT helps you get in contact with a transcendant (above and beyond the range of normal or merely physical human experience) sense of yourself known as "self-as-context" ... the YOU that is always there observing and experiencing and yet distinct from your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories. ACT aims to help you to clarify your personal values and to take action on them, bringing more vitality and meaning to your life in the process.

Core Conception: ACT states that psychological suffering is usually caused by experiential avoidance, cognitive entanglement, and resulting psychological rigidity that leads to a failure to take needed behavioral steps in accord with your core values. As a simple way to summarize the model, you can say that ACT views the core of many of your problems as FEAR:

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

And the healthy alternative to FEAR is to ACT:

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

Similarities: ACT is sometimes grouped together with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy, and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as The Third Wave of Behavior Therapy. Similarities are also found with the awareness-management movement in business training programs, where mindfulness and cognitive-shifting techniques are being employed to generate rapid positive shifts in mood and performance. ACT has also been adapted to create a non-therapy version of the same processes called Acceptance and Commitment Training. The emphasis of ACT on present-mindedness, directions and action is similar to other approaches, including more humanistic and constructivist approaches such as Narrative Psychology, Gestalt Therapy, Morita Therapy, or Re-evaluation Counseling. It is also similar to many eastern approaches (particularly Buddhism), and the mystical aspects of most major spiritual and religious traditions.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act,
but also dream; not only plan but also believe.

~ Anatole France, French Author 1844 - 1924



Sources: (1) Wikipedia and (2) contextualpsychology.org




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