So what is Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
We officially say ACT as the word “act” and not as the initials A-C-T. There’s a good reason for this. At its core, ACT is a behavioural therapy: it’s about taking action. But it’s not about just any old action. First, it’s about values-guided action. There’s a big existential component to this model: What do you want to stand for in life? What really matters, deep in your heart? How do I want to live my life? ACT gets you in touch with what really matters in the big picture: your heart’s deepest desires for whom you want to be and what you want to do. You then use these core values to guide, motivate, and inspire behavioural change. It’s about “mindful” action: action that you take consciously, with full awareness-open to your experience and fully engaged in whatever you’re doing.
ACT gets its name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to taking action that enriches your life. The aim of ACT is to help us create a rich, full, and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that life inevitably brings. ACT does this by teaching us psychological skills to handle painful thoughts and feelings effectively, in such a way that they have much less impact and influence “these are known as mindfulness skills” these skills help us to clarify what’s truly important and meaningful to us, clarify our values and use that knowledge to guide, inspire, and motivate us to set goals and take action that enriches our life.
“I just wanted to offer you my thanks for your insights and timely advice over the past couple of years. I’ve put into place a lot of your recommendations and learnt a lot about myself also in this time. I’m living a much happier life nowadays, I have a great little family and my own micro business is really starting to take off”
Thank you again.
There are six core processes in order to engage in meaningful living according to acceptance commitment therapy
1. Contact with the Present Moment
Connecting with the present moment, focussing on and engaging fully in what you are doing. Instead of getting caught up with the past or future, you learn to be deeply connected with what is happening right now. “All too often I notice myself feeling beaten up by my thoughts, because I remember things I’ve said that hurt people or embarrassed me. Sometimes I’m replaying movies of the things an ex-boyfriend or lover said to me, and I either begin to miss him painfully or feel incredibly humiliated for being so stupid to fall for his words”
Actively contacting psychological experiences directly, fully, and without needless defence, resistance or fight. We are opening fully to experience, as it is, not as your mind says it is. Dropping the struggle with what is arising, creating space, and letting the mental noise flow through you. We are making room for unpleasant feeling, sensation and urges, instead of trying to suppress them or push them away.
Defusion means relating to your thoughts and feelings in a new way, so they have much less impact and influence over you. As you learn to defuse painful and unpleasant thoughts, they will lose the ability to control, disturb or depress you. The aim of Defusion is NOT to feel better, nor to get rid of unwanted thoughts. The aim of Defusion IS to reduce influence of unhelpful cognitive processes in order to enhance psychological flexibility.
Learning what is most significant to one’s authentic self. A transcendent sense of self: a consistent perspective from which to observe and accept all changing experiences. (Often called The Observing Self). It is a process, not a thing: an awareness of awareness itself: ‘pure awareness’ While our thoughts, feelings, sensations etc. constantly change, the observing self does not. It can be very powerful to draw attention to this aspect of self, which doesn’t get caught up in life situations.
Chosen life directions. ‘Your heart’s deepest desires for the sort of person you want to be and the things you want to do in your time on this planet; in other words, what you want to stand for in life’, Values provide motivation & inspiration, guidance for your actions creating meaning in life.
6. Committed Action
“Rich meaningful life is created through taking actions, action which is motivated by your values”. Choose to respond in ways that move your heart instead of reacting in habitual way that are not creating life you want.
- Russ Harris: The Happiness Trap
- Russ Harris: Act with love
- Steven Hayes: Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life
- Emily, Sandoz & Kelly, Wilson: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Eating Disorders: A Process-Focused Guide to Treating Anorexia and Bulimia