Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy that combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with mindfulness and acceptance strategies. Developed by Steven C. Hayes, Kelly G. Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl in the late 1980s, ACT is based on the idea that psychological suffering is often caused by our attempts to control or avoid unwanted thoughts, feelings, or experiences.
ACT therapy focuses on six core processes:
- Acceptance: Learning to accept and experience difficult thoughts and feelings without trying to change or avoid them.
- Cognitive Diffusion: Developing techniques to "defuse" from unhelpful thoughts or beliefs, reducing their influence over behavior.
- Being Present: Practicing mindfulness and staying engaged in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
- Self as Context: Recognizing that thoughts and feelings do not define a person, and developing a more flexible sense of self.
- Values: Identifying personal values and using them as a guide for behavior and decision-making.
- Committed Action: Taking action in line with one's values, even in the presence of challenging thoughts and emotions.
The primary goal of ACT is to help individuals develop psychological flexibility, which is the ability to be present, open, and committed to taking value-driven action, even when faced with difficult thoughts and feelings. ACT has been found to be effective in treating various mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and chronic pain, as well as helping people improve their overall well-being and quality of life.