Acceptance Commitment Therapy
The core conception of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is that psychological suffering is usually caused by the interface between human language and cognition, and the control of human behavior by direct experience. Psychological inflexibility is argued to emerge from experiential avoidance, cognitive entanglement, attachment of a conceptualized self, loss of contact with the present, and the resulting failure to take needed behavioral steps in accord with core values. Buttressed by an extensive basic research, ACT takes the view that trying to change difficult thoughts and feelings as a means of coping can be counterproductive, but new, powerful alternatives are available, including acceptance, mindfulness, cognitive diffusion, values, and committed action.
The ACT model targets the processes of language that are involved in psychopathology and its effort to make better, such as:
- cognitive fusion – where thoughts or feelings fuse with a perception of reality that is distorted becoming harmful,
- experiential avoidance — the phenomenon that occurs when a person is unwilling to remain in contact with particular private experiences and takes steps to alter the form or frequency of these events and the contexts that occasion them, even when doing so causes psychological harm
- the domination of a conceptualized self over the “self as context” that emerges from perspective taking and results in deictic relational frames
- lack of values, confusion of goals with values, and other values problems that can underly the failure to build broad and flexible repertoires
- inability to build larger unit of behavior through commitment to behavior that moves in the direction of chosen values and other such processes.
ACT uses both traditional behavior therapy techniques (defined broadly to include everything from cognitive therapy to behavior analysis), as well as others that are more recent or that have largely emerged from outside the behavior tradition, such as cognitive defusion, acceptance, mindfulness, values, and commitment methods.
Research shows that these methods are beneficial for a broad range of clients. ACT teaches clients how to alter through acceptance the way difficult private experiences are viewed rather than having to eliminate them from occurring at all. This empowering message has been shown to help clients cope with a wide variety of clinical problems, including depression, anxiety, stress, substance abuse, and even psychotic symptoms.