What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (often pronounced ACT in the psychology world) is a cognitive-behavioral treatment based on scientific research about how the human mind works. The name of this therapy comes from a primary theme: learning how to accept those experiences that are out of your control and committing to changing what you can to make your life better. As the name suggests, this is a very active treatment.

One aim of this type of treatment is to help you live a full, satisfying, meaningful life. So, we will spend time figuring out what is truly important to you. What are your values? What do you want to do in the brief time you are here? Once we know what is deeply meaningful to you, we will use these values to guide goal-setting and identify ways to take action.

A second important part of this treatment is practicing mindfulness skills to help you identify and work with thoughts and feelings more effectively, chose actions that line up with your values, and improve your quality of life. This will involve experimenting with mindfulness skills and new behaviors in session, practicing these new behaviors on your own, and coming back to session to discuss how they worked for you. Mindfulness can help you to:

  • Notice and change self-defeating patterns
  • Accept and regulate painful emotions
  • Be more aware of and less controlled by emotions, urges, and impulses

The more you practice these skills and take notice of what works, the more helpful these skills will be.

My version of ACT can be creative, fun, and irreverent. And some sessions might be difficult. We may work with painful thoughts, feelings, or memories. But in each session, we will work collaboratively. The goal is never to coerce or force you to do something you are not willing to do. The goal is to support you in trying new ways or taking new action so that you can live a life that is rich, meaningful, and highly satisfying.