ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)

Although ACT is not a new therapy, it is gaining quite a bit of attention because one of its main concepts is linked to mindfulness and the need to be present.

ACT (pronounced like the word ‘act’) is mainly a behavioural therapy that navigates first, the difficulty of accepting our reality, our present situation for what it is. The psychotherapist utilizes our character strengths to help us handle painful thoughts and feelings effectively. Then the process turns to figure out what is truly important for us (values) and uses that to set up goals and take action based on them.

The goal of ACT is not to reduce the symptoms but to create mindfulness and a life that is congruent with its values, so ACT requires a great deal of self-awareness.

ACT is not as simple as it seems. It requires the client to completely ignore the mental processes to which is accustomed and exchange them for a more, albeit healthy, passive role. A lot easier said than done, as those mental processes are in most cases the knee jerk reaction of our daily lives. Imagine worrying about something, an exam, a family member, a new job…if using ACT, the therapist would be guiding you to let the feelings and thoughts happen without the impulse to act on them. It will guide you to defuse, to pay attention to the physical sensations those thoughts are eliciting in you. He/she might ask you to pay attention to the way you talk to yourself and what are your interpretations of the current situation and to challenge your thoughts with more realistic ones.

In conclusion, ACT teaches us to see our behaviours, our thoughts and our feelings as three separate things that do not need to be automated nor automatic.

As Steve C Hays puts it… “ACT is about getting out of your mind and into your life.”

Harris, 2009

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