Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

How ACT Works

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on accepting difficult thoughts and emotions while committing to actions that align with one’s values. It aims to help individuals develop psychological flexibility, allowing them to cope with life’s challenges and pursue meaningful goals

What ACT Helps With

ACT is a form of psychotherapy that has gained significant popularity in the treatment of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder.


Acceptance: ACT encourages with accepting thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment. Rather than trying to suppress or avoid uncomfortable feelings, ACT teaches you to acknowledge them and allow them to exist without struggling against them.

Cognitive Defusion, a concept that involves recognising that thoughts are just thoughts, not necessarily facts. Instead of getting caught up in the content of their thoughts, individuals learn to observe them with detachment and reduce their influence over behavior. ACT emphasises the importance of being fully present in the moment. It encourages mindfulness and awareness of the present experience, allowing you to engage with the ‘here and now’ rather than getting entangled in worries about the past or future.

It helps identify and clarify what truly matters to you in your life, understand personal values helps guide decision-making and goal-setting, leading to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life. 

Once values are identified, ACT encourages you to take committed action towards your goals, even in the face of discomfort or difficult emotions. This involves choosing actions that align with values and pursuing them despite potential obstacles. ACT helps you develop a broader sense of self, recognise that you are not defined solely by your thoughts, emotions, or past experiences. view your self from a more objective standpoint, fostering greater psychological flexibility.

Defusion Techniques: ACT uses various techniques to help individuals detach from their thoughts’ influence. This might include repeating distressing thoughts aloud, recognizing them as just words, or imagining them written on a cloud passing by.

Overall, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps individuals build resilience and cope with distress while moving towards a life that aligns with their values. It is not about eliminating difficult emotions or challenging thoughts but rather changing the relationship with them to live more purposefully and meaningfully. If you’re considering ACT for yourself or someone else, it’s essential to work with a qualified mental health professional experienced in this therapeutic approach.

ACT sessions

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) sessions, the therapist and the client work collaboratively to address psychological challenges and improve overall well-being. The typical structure of ACT sessions involves various activities and discussions centered around the core principles of the therapy. Here’s what happens in ACT sessions:

Introduction and Goal Setting: The therapist begins by explaining the fundamental concepts of ACT and building rapport with the client. They discuss the client’s goals and what they hope to achieve through therapy.

Mindfulness Exercises: Mindfulness is a crucial aspect of ACT. The therapist may start the session with a brief mindfulness exercise to help the client become more aware of their present thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment.

Identifying Values: The therapist helps the client identify their core values and what matters most to them in life. Values clarification is an essential step in ACT, as it guides the therapeutic process and sets the stage for committed action.

Exploring Challenges: The client discusses specific challenges they are facing, such as anxiety, depression, or relationship issues. The therapist encourages the client to describe their thoughts and emotions related to these challenges.

Cognitive Defusion: The therapist introduces cognitive defusion techniques to help the client recognize and detach from unhelpful thought patterns. These techniques aim to reduce the impact of negative or distressing thoughts on the client’s behavior.

Acceptance: The therapist emphasises the importance of accepting difficult emotions and experiences rather than trying to avoid or suppress them. Acceptance involves allowing these feelings to exist without judgment or resistance.

Committed Action: The therapist helps the client set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that align with their identified values. They encourage the client to take committed action towards these goals, even in the presence of discomfort or challenging emotions.

Homework Assignments: Between sessions, the therapist may assign homework exercises to practice the skills learned in therapy. These may include mindfulness exercises, defusion techniques, or taking actions in line with their values.

Review and Feedback: At the end of each session, the therapist and client review the topics discussed, progress made, and any challenges faced. They may discuss strategies for dealing with obstacles and explore how the client can integrate the principles of ACT into their daily life.

Ongoing Support: ACT is typically conducted over several sessions, and the therapist provides ongoing support and guidance to the client throughout the therapy process.

It’s important to note that each ACT session is tailored to the your unique needs and circumstances. The therapist may adapt their approach based on the client’s progress and challenges. Additionally, ACT sessions may include various experiential exercises, metaphors, and role-plays to illustrate the core principles and facilitate understanding. The collaborative and supportive nature of the therapy helps clients develop psychological flexibility and make positive changes in their lives.