Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) was developed to help people to create flexible thinking and find personal meaning. It is an evidence-based treatment that I use to help my clients to move past their uncomfortable emotions and thoughts in order to be able to engage more fully in life. ACT also stands for “Accept, Choose and Take Action” When incorporating ACT into my practice, I use experiential exercises, metaphors, stories, writing and value-directed goal setting to help you to:

  • Gain psychological skills that will help you handle painful thoughts, feelings and urges
  • Observe thoughts without believing them or following their directions
  • Identify patterns of trying to control or avoid uncontrollable internal experiences
  • Experience a stable sense of self as an observer of experiences
  • Bring attention to the present moment with self-awareness
  • Participate in values-consistent activities, even when psychologically challenged
  • Clarify what is truly important and thus help you live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

Acceptance of things as they come, without evaluating or attempting to change them, is a skill developed through mindfulness exercises in and out of session. ACT does not attempt to directly change or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings (as cognitive behavioral therapy does) but instead encourages people to develop a new and compassionate relationship with those experiences. This shift can free people from difficulties attempting to control their experiences and help them become more open to actions consistent with their values, values clarification and the definition of values-based goals also being key components of ACT.

Psychological flexibility, the main goal of ACT, typically comes about through several core processes.

Developing creative hopelessness involves exploring past attempts at solving or getting away from those difficulties bringing an individual to therapy. Through recognition of the workability or lack of workability of these attempts, ACT creates opportunity for individuals to act in a manner more consistent with what is most important to them.

Accepting one’s emotional experience can be described as the process of learning to experience the range of human emotions with a kind, open, and accepting perspective.

Choosing valued life directions is the process of defining what is most important in life and clarifying how one wishes to live life.

Taking-action may refer to one’s commitment to make changes and engage in behaviors moving one in the direction of what is most valued.

These processes are overlapping and interconnected, not separate. All of these processes are introduced and developed through direct experiences that are identified and taken part in by the person in therapy over the course of treatment. Psychological flexibility can be defined simply as "the ability to be present, open up, and do what matters."