Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)
ACT is a type of mindful psychotherapy that helps you stay focused on the present moment and accept thoughts and feelings without judgment.
What is ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)?
ACT is based around clients beginning to accept their issues and the things that have happened to them in the past. They are encouraged to commit to changing their behaviour, regardless of what is going on in their lives and how they feel about it.
Acceptance and commitment therapy differs from CBT; instead of challenging distressing thoughts by looking for evidence and coming up with a more rational response (CBT), in ACT, the thought is accepted as just a thought and not necessarily based on fact or truth.
What should I expect from ACT?
Acceptance and commitment therapy promotes psychological flexibility using approaches including:
• mindfulness and being present in the moment
• acceptance of what is out of our control
• commitment to living a life that is in accordance with your values
All of these will be explained to you by your ACT therapist - the aim is that you are able to take these new skills forward and apply them as and when situations arise in your life.
What is ACT used to treat?
Acceptance and commitment therapy can be used to treat a wide range of issues, including:
• Stress including workplace stress
• Social Anxiety Disorder
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Chronic Pain
• Substance Abuse
• Medically unexplained symptoms
• Health anxiety
Is ACT right for me?
It can be hard to know which therapy is the right for your current circumstances. It’s normal for people to find one type of therapy that works at a particular time in their lives, but then change to another type later on.
The key indicators that Acceptance and commitment therapy might be a good choice for you are:
1. You are looking for something relatively short-term. The concepts of ACT can be applied to a range of mental and physical illnesses, but usually, around 12 sessions are offered.
2. You don’t want to work through past events in huge depth. While ACT will look at the circumstances that have caused your current difficulties, it won’t go over them in the same depth as psychodynamic or humanistic therapies. If you have suffered prolonged trauma or abuse, ACT may not be the best choice for you.
3. You are happy to complete ‘homework’ between sessions. People who are depressed or living in chaotic circumstances can find it hard to find the energy or time to do this. Using practical workbooks and exercises can make it easy for someone to understand and implement the techniques they are learning in their therapy and will suit those who like to be action driven.
4. You are interested in adopting different strategies to manage the difficulties in your life. This may sound obvious, but in order for acceptance and commitment therapy to be effective, you have to be willing to change the way you think and approach certain areas of your life.
Why might ACT be the wrong therapy for me?
Before deciding to have Acceptance and commitment therapy, it might be helpful to think about the following:
• Is short-term therapy right for me? If you have severe or complex problems, you may find short-term therapy like ACT is less helpful. Sometimes, therapy may need to go on for longer to cover fully the number of problems you have and the length of time they've been around.
• Am I comfortable thinking about my feelings? ACT can involve becoming aware of your anxieties and emotions. Initially, you may find this process uncomfortable or distressing.
• Would I prefer a more personalized approach? ACT is highly structured. It calls for a radical acceptance of the concepts and ideas in order to put them into action. Your therapist will support you in learning about these new concepts and how they apply to your circumstances.
• How much time do I want to spend? ACT can involve exercises you can do outside your sessions with a therapist. You may find this means you need to commit your own time to complete the work over the course of treatment and afterwards.