Commitment and Acceptance Therapy

What is Commitment and Acceptance Therapy

A type of psychotherapy and a branch of behavioral behavior analysis is commitment and acceptance therapy (ACT, usually pronounced as the word act). It is an empirically-based therapeutic technique that incorporates techniques of recognition and mindfulness combined with determination and behavior-change strategies in various ways to improve psychological versatility.

Initially, the technique was called systematic distancing. In this article, we will discuss what is Commitment and Acceptance Therapy, Acceptance Therapy Flexibility, and some little information about acceptance therapy.

What is acceptance therapy?

Therapy is a subset of cognitive therapy that focuses on the process of enhancing present-moment awareness, building personal relationships, and addressing the thoughts and feelings that have prevented someone from achieving increased satisfaction in his or her life.

Acceptance therapy is a newer therapy that has received a lot of attention in psychology research lately. Although relatively new, it has been the subject of numerous studies.

Acceptance therapy uses awareness-based techniques, acceptance, and behavioral activation techniques as the main tools to provide psychological flexibility. It is not based on traditional CBT assumptions. It is a technique that focuses on a person’s holistic development, awareness, and change rather than a pragmatic aim of symptom reduction or symptom relief.

acceptance therapy
Source: @lisaoliveratherapy
From the book Self-Esteem: A Proven Program of Cognitive Techniques for Assessing

“Another way to think about putting your values into action is the ‘bus metaphor’, a favorite of Steve Hayes, the father of acceptance and commitment therapy. According to this metaphor, you are driving a bus called your life. On the front of the bus is a sign saying where you are headed. The sign is an important value, like “keeping promises” or “being compassionate.” However, as soon as you turn the bus into the direction of your values, barriers pop up in front of you like monsters. These monsters are your painful feelings of low self-esteem, fear, depression, anger, and so on. You cannot run over the monsters or go around them. You stop the bus and wait for them to go away, but they never do. The bus of your life is stalled by the side of the road.

The secret to acting on your values is to let the monsters on the bus. Invite them aboard, give them seats, and take them along for the ride. They will continue to heckle you from the back of the bus, telling you that the way you’re going is too dangerous, stupid, difficult, pointless, and so on. That’s what monsters do. That’s their job. Your job is to let them yammer away while you continue to drive the bus in your chosen direction.” 

Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning
commitment and acceptance therapy 1

ACT Employs Six Core Principles to Achieve Psychological Flexibility

Cognitive defusion: Learning methods to reduce the tendency to ‘buy into’ harmful or ineffective thoughts, images, emotions, and memories. Rather than trying to change the way we think about things or try to talk ourselves out of our opinions, cognitive defusion helps to give us the choice to just not engage with harmful thoughts. 

Acceptance: Allowing thoughts to come, making space for them rather than spending all of one’s energy fighting with them. Acceptance also includes acceptance of uncomfortable emotions and physical sensations. By learning to be more willing to tolerate discomfort, actively pursuing what we want in life becomes easier. 

Contact with the present moment: mindful connection to the present, experienced with clarity, interest, and devoid of judgment. Rather than giving in to catastrophic interpretations of what is happening, mindfulness teaches us to connect to the actual reality of the present moment in a way that is more grounded and less painful. 

Observing self: Accessing a transcendent sense of self, as an arena where you experience both pleasant and unpleasant events, but have no power to actually harm oneself.

Values: Discovering what is most important to one’s true self. Values are our compass, not the promise of pleasant experiences. Every large goal inevitable has components that are unpleasant, or that we would rather avoid. By clarifying values and acting in ways that realize them, we become less involved in unhelpful emotional avoidance strategies. 

Committed action: Moving toward value-based goals effectively. This is really about making effort at making our values happen, even when it is difficult, or when we experience unpleasant situations. By consistently building the life we want to live, we move in the direction of being vitally engaged in a life that is meaningful. 


Last Updated on December 12, 2022 by Lucas Berg


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