Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a third wave behavioural therapy that uses acceptance skills, mindfulness and commitment to behaviour change to develop psychological flexibility and helps clarify and direct values-guided behaviour. The aim of ACT is to maximise human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life.

ACT is based on Relational Frame Therapy, a comprehensive theory of language and cognition. ACT differs from traditional cognitive behaviour therapy in that instead of teaching people to control their thoughts, feelings, actions and other private events, ACT teaches us to notice, accept and embrace them while moving in the direction of your values. ACT teaches you to let go of ‘debating’ with thoughts. It does not attempt to directly change, challenge or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings (as in cognitive behaviour therapy) but to notice and let go of unhelpful and distracting thoughts while moving towards your values in life. Thus, Mindfulness and Values are key components to ACT.

The core conception of ACT is that psychological suffering is usually caused by experiential avoidance and cognitive entanglement. Accepting thoughts and detaching from them reduces human suffering. For example, if someone is getting caught up thinking, ‘’I’m a bad person’’ they might be instructed to say ‘’I am having the thought that I’m a bad person’’. This effectively separates the person from the cognition, thereby reducing its negative charge. As well as defusing from unhelpful thoughts it helps us to see that thoughts are thoughts driven by fear and not facts.

ACT associated problems:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Self- harm

  • Eating disorders

  • Work place stress

  • Substance use

  • Pain management

  • Trauma and PTSD

What Will Therapy Look Like

During ACT therapy you will work collaboratively with your psychologist in a 50-minute session. Clients will work towards letting go of past unworkable solutions such as avoidance, suppression and control and work towards making healthy contact with thoughts, feelings, memories, and physical sensations that have been feared and avoided. Additionally, clients will develop greater clarity about their personal values and commit to behaviour change. Therapy will consist of teaching skills, experiential exercises, building awareness and commitment to change.

ACT is an evidence-based therapy with over 60 randomised control trials. It has shown evidence for effectiveness in randomized control trials for a variety of problems.

If you would like to engage in a course of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at The Consulting Clinic, please contact the clinic.

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Recommended Reading List:

  • Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’’ (2005) by Steven Hayes & Spencer Smith.

  • ACT Made Simple: An Easy-to-Read Primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’’ (2009) by Russ Harris.

  • The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living’’ (2008) by Russ Harris.

  • Living Beyond your Pain: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Ease Chronic Pain’’(2006) by JoAnne Dahl, Steven Hayes & Tobias Lundgren.

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