Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is gaining recognition as an effective treatment for a wide range of psychological problems. The evidence emerging from both mental health research and studies of basic human psychology suggests that treatment approaches that primarily emphasize changing thoughts and feelings may be limited in their effectiveness. Moreover, these change-focused approaches may even make some problems worse. A growing number of theorists and therapists are advocating a renewed focus on the importance of acceptance when dealing with difficult emotions and troubling thoughts. Acceptance-based therapies like ACT have been referred to as the "third wave" of research-based psychotherapy, the "first wave" being behavior therapy, and the "second wave" being cognitive therapy.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) has been shown to be useful in treating anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, trauma, couples distress and personality disorders. The January 2006 edition of Behaviour Research and Therapy summarized the results of 13 clinical trials. Individuals treated with ACT showed greater improvement than those who received other types of therapy in 12 out of the 13 trials.

The essential components of ACT include letting go of the struggle to control unwanted thoughts and feelings, being mindfully aware of the present moment, and committing to a course of action that is consistent with what you value most in life. In this way, ACT is about both acceptance and change. It is the acceptance of the thoughts and emotions that accompany a difficult but valuable act that allow you to take that action. Acceptance of your anxious thoughts and feelings allows you to focus more clearly on the present and to take the steps that move you closer to the life you truly want to live.

Acceptance and commitment therapy is based on the following concepts: