Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT (pronounced “act”) is an evidence-based mindfulness focussed therapy that assists people to respond differently to distressing thoughts and feelings and work towards living the life they want. Unlike traditional cognitive-behavioural therapies where people are encouraged to challenge unhelpful thinking styles, ACT focuses on simply viewing thoughts mindfully and learning to view them as mental events rather than facts that we need to engage with.
Within ACT we recognise that all humans struggle with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and in fact the belief that we “shouldn’t” have these experiences is, in part, what exacerbates the struggle. The ACT approach involves educating people about the “normal” but often unhelpful nature of the human mind and then learning ways to respond to it more skilfully and flexibly. Through mindfulness exercises people are taught to access their “observing self”: the part of us that can consciously and non-judgementally observe all of our experiences. By stepping out of the struggle with thoughts and feelings we potentially have more room to engage meaningfully with our lives and relationships.
Also central to ACT is helping people to clarify their values and hopes for life and take steps towards living in a way that is congruent with these.