Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) has grown out of cognitive behavioral therapy utilizing the insights of mindfulness training. In ACT, people are taught that although thoughts and feelings can influence actions, they don’t have to be controlled by negative thoughts or emotions. Instead, they can accept the experience of emotions, but choose to act in a way that helps them achieve their valued goals.
Acceptance of Negative Thoughts and Emotions
To some extent, negative thoughts and emotions are inherent in life. They can be minimized, but likely can’t be avoided altogether. Trying to avoid them can cause people to avoid many valuable and positive experiences, which not only prevents people from effectively participating in life, but leads to more negative thoughts and emotions.
In acceptance and commitment therapy, people learn that these thoughts are not necessarily a reflection of reality, and although they have to be experienced in the present they do not have to be acted upon.
By accepting negative thoughts and emotions, people can develop skills to avoid being confined by them. They gain the power to act independently of negative thoughts and emotions, while acknowledging their existence, validating their experience, and appreciating them for what they are.
Learn What Matters to You
If you had the freedom to act however you wanted, without being limited by negative thoughts and emotions, what would you do? Finding out what truly matters to you and learning to act on that information can help defuse the impact of negative thoughts and emotions. By identifying clear goals, working toward those goals through negative thoughts and emotions, and appreciating achievements, patients learn how to experience more positive emotions that lead to better evaluation of themselves and their lives.
Acting on Your Values
Once a person has identified the most important values in their lives, they can commit to taking actions based on those values. These committed actions may be taken at work, in the context of interpersonal relationships, or in private moments, resulting in a more positive experience and increased ability to achieve important goals.
ACT’s Proven Effectiveness
Acceptance and commitment therapy has been shown to be effective for many different mental health conditions, including:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Impulse disorders
- Substance abuse
- Chronic stress
- Chronic pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anxiety disorders
As with other forms of CBT, acceptance commitment therapy focuses on delivering results in a limited number of sessions, and results persist long after therapy sessions end.