Developed by Dr. Steven Hayes, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based treatment approach like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that examines how our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions interact in the context of our environment.
ACT looks to accomplish two things:
1. Develop a stance of acceptance and willingness to experience unwanted thoughts and feelings since these parts of the human experience cannot always be controlled, and
2. Deepen our understanding of what our values are, build goals around those values, and develop a plan to take committed actionable steps towards those goals.
ACT-based skills have been empirically supported in the treatment of various problem areas including anxiety disorders (Panic Disorder, OCD, generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, specific phobias, PTSD), depression, substance abuse, grief, chronic pain, eating disorders, and more. ACT looks at how we try to exert control over unwanted thoughts and feelings through experiential avoidance (i.e. avoiding, procrastinating, compulsion, numbing with substances, binge-watching, etc). An ACT perspective does not view the presence of symptoms as a disorder, but rather the efforts to avoid these unwanted thoughts, feelings, and sensations that create barriers between us and living a full life. To help develop skills towards acceptance and value-based action, ACT emphasizes mindfulness skills, cognitive defusion, staying with the present moment, taking a stance of accepting what is not in our control, and moving towards what matters.
The studies behind ACT have found six core processes that are the target of mindfulness, value-based action, and acceptance interventions: