Highlighting Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
September 16, 2019
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a psychotherapeutic approach which suggests that suffering is a normal part of life, and something we all share. ACT attributes suffering to the language used in our minds, whether it be our inner critic or the resistance to unwanted thoughts, feelings or memories. In order to manage these unwanted experiences, ACT teaches individuals effective psychological skills, such as mindfulness.
Mindfulness involves being consciously aware of the present moment with openness, curiosity and acceptance. Mindfulness teaches us to engage fully with what is happening right now, rather than being continually lost in thought. This process allows thoughts, feelings and sensations to flow in and out of the mind, rather than trying to control or avoid them.
Following the development of mindfulness skills, the ACT approach will then aim for the individual to outline their personal values, and encourage them to act in accordance with these values. An important part of self-reflection is identifying any desired changes. Common questions which can facilitate this process are “What is truly important to you?” or “What do you want to stand for in life?”
The aim of ACT is to assist the individual to live a life that is more mindful and purposeful. ACT does not explicitly aim to decrease symptoms, instead viewing symptom reduction as a by-product of therapy. Elements of ACT can be incorporated by general practitioners when assessing a patient’s life circumstances and coping strategies. This supportive and compassionate approach has been associated with improved outcomes for a wide variety of patients, effectively treating chronic pain, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), psychosis and acute stress.
Written by Damian Guastella, a psychologist at Seed Psychology.