Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
ACT (pronounced as the word “act”) was first created in 1986 by psychologist Steven Hayes and is now one of the most robustly researched and evidence-based treatment options available. While it is strongly based in science, ACT also focuses on forgiveness, personal values, and living in the present moment. It is a mindfulness-based therapy that has been shown to be effective across a wide variety of populations and diagnoses.
Part of what makes ACT so different from many other therapies can be summed up in its abbreviation: “ACT.” ACT emphasizes taking action that is guided by our values even in the presence of unpleasant thoughts or emotions we may be struggling with. ACT’s focus is not on eliminating or fighting negative thoughts or feelings. Instead, it is on developing the skills necessary to be able to live a life worth living. ACT shows us that we can radically accept where we currently are and commit to making needed change to improve our lives. This is part of what makes ACT so powerful: instead of becoming entrenched in the problematic emotions, it teaches us to be psychologically flexible. This way whatever emotions or thoughts come to the surface, ACT shows us how to live with them.
ACT is distinct from other mindfulness-based therapies. While other approaches are frequently manualized or highly structured, ACT allows therapists to individualize treatment and takes a client-centered, collaborative approach to treatment. ACT has been shown to be effective as both a short-term and a long-term therapy, delivered in group or individual format. ACT teaches us to live a full and meaningful life and allows us to embrace our inner demons along the way.