At its core, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) involves learning the skills to accept the things that are out of your control and commit to actions that lead to a fuller and more enriching life.
The key principles of ACT include accepting our entire spectrum of experiences and committing to action in order to create the desired behaviour changes that will improve your quality of life.
There are over 250 randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of research) published in academic journals that show the effectiveness of ACT with many psychological issues, including:
- Binge eating
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.Siddhārtha Gautama (The Buddha)
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
ACT focuses on the effects of your behaviours, thoughts, feelings, and sensations rather than symptoms and disorders. Judgement is suspended; no behaviours, thoughts, or feelings are good or bad, right or wrong. Instead, the function of these experiences is explored during therapy. The same behaviour can have different functions depending on the context. And the context is very much dependent on the present moment.
In order to respond more effectively to the problems and challenges life inevitably brings, ACT (a mindfulness-based therapy) facilitates the ability to be in the present moment with full awareness, regardless of how we may feel at any point in time. During the therapeutic process, we examine the thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, memories, or urges that exert influence over us and prevent us from living a meaningful life. In addition, we explore new strategies to respond to difficult thoughts and feelings.
Another crucial aspect of ACT includes clarifying core values and translating them into specific action goals so that we can start doing what matters. Values are deep desires for how we want to behave, treat ourselves, others, and the world. They guide how we wish to conduct ourselves in the present moment and on an ongoing basis. Values can also be strengths, qualities or virtues. Accordingly, a sense of meaning and purpose is cultivated by fully engaging in life while taking committed action that moves us closer toward who and what matters most to you.
The greater your ability to be fully conscious, be open to your experience and act on your values, the greater your quality of life.
What are ACT therapy sessions like?
During the therapy sessions, difficult choices, concerns, thoughts, feelings, and problematic situations will be identified. New skills are developed to help you separate from your challenging thoughts, feelings or concerns to make room for all personal experiences. We explore how your current actions respond to these private experiences, whether they move you toward or away from who /what you care about. In light of your values, we explore goals that move you in the life direction of your choice.
For example, some questions explored in therapy may include:
- How would you like to treat yourself, others, and the world, differently?
- What are the short-term versus long-term impacts of particular behaviours?
- What activities would you like to start?
- What skills would you like to develop?
- What relationships do you want to improve, and in what ways?
ACT involves experiential exercises that connect you to the here and now and help you stay open to your experiences. Your therapist might ask you to practice these skills at home in between sessions for more lasting results. ACT aims to teach you how to be present, fully embrace your experiences and do what matters most to you, so you can live a rich, full, and meaningful life.