​​​Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) gets it name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life.  The aim of ACT is to maximize human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life.  ACT does this by teaching you psychological skills to deal with your painful thoughts and feelings effectively, and helping you clarify what is truly important and meaningful to you -- then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate you to change your life for the better.  ACT interventions focus around two main processes:

  • Developing acceptance of unwanted private experiences which are out of personal control
  • Commitment and action towards living a valued life

Components of ACT include:

  1. Contact with the Present Moment:  Also known as mindfulness, this is a process of consciously bringing to awareness your 'here and now' experience with openness, interest and receptiveness.  There are many facets to mindfulness, including living in the present moment; engaging fully in what you are doing rather than ‘getting lost’ in your thoughts; and allowing your feelings to be as they are, letting them come and go rather
    than trying to control them. 

  2. Defusion: Defusion means learning to step back or detach from unhelpful thoughts and worries and memories.  Instead of getting caught up in your thoughts, or pushed around by them, or struggling to get rid of them, you learn how to let them come and go - as if they were just cars driving past outside your house. You learn how to step back and watch your thinking, so you can respond effectively - instead of getting tangled up or lost inside your thinking.
  3. Acceptance:  Acceptance means opening up and making room for painful feelings and sensations. You learn how to stop struggling with them, give them some breathing space, and let them be there without getting all caught up in them, or overwhelmed by them.  The more you can open up, and give them room to move, the easier it is for your feelings to come and go without draining you or holding you back.
  4. The Observing Self:  The Observing Self is the part of you that is responsible for awareness and attention. We don't have a word for it in common everyday language - we normally just talk about the "mind'. But there are two parts to the mind: the thinking self -- (the part that is always thinking; the part that is responsible for all your thoughts, beliefs, memories, judgments, fantasies etc.) -- And the observing self -- (the part of your mind that is able to be aware of whatever you are thinking or feeling or doing at any moment). Without it, you couldn't develop those mindfulness skills. The more you practice those mindfulness skills, the more you'll become aware of this part of your mind, and able to access it when you need it.
  5. Values:  Values are what you want your life to be about, deep in your heart. What you want to stand for. What you want to do with your time on this planet. What ultimately matters to you in the big picture. What you would like to be remembered for by the people you love.
  6. Committed Action:  Committed action means taking action guided by your values - doing what matters - even if it's difficult or uncomfortable.

When you put all these things together, you develop 'psychological' flexibility. This is the ability to be in the present moment, with awareness and openness, and take action, guided by your values. In other words, it's the ability to be present, open up, and do what matters. The greater your ability to be present, open up and do what matters, the greater your quality of life - the greater your sense of vitality, wellbeing and fulfillment.

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