Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of counseling and psychological intervention that combines acceptance and mindfulness strategies with commitment and behavior-change strategies. Previously known as comprehensive distancing, it was developed in 1982 by Steven C. Hayes to combine cognitive and behavioral therapy.
How is ACT used?
ACT is intended to help clients increase their psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility is usually defined as a person’s ability to stay in contact with the present moment and choose behaviors appropriate to their situation and values, even while experiencing unpleasant thoughts or feelings. This is an important part of developing resilience.
ACT clients can learn to accept their deeper feelings as appropriate responses to certain situations, without allowing them to prevent progress in life. Clients can learn to accept their difficulties and commit to making necessary behavioral changes, whatever may be happening in their lives or how they feel.
What does ACT involve?
With ACT, a client does not try to control, avoid, or feel guilty about painful emotions and past experiences. Instead, ACT encourages the client to embrace, learn from, and accept their thoughts and feelings while working to change behavior.
There are six core processes involved in ACT:
Cognitive Defusion: The client learns to recognize and accept their thoughts and feelings as “just thoughts,” without getting caught up in them or giving them control.
Acceptance: The client learns to embrace difficult experiences or feelings, such as anxiety or pain, and to let them pass by without avoiding or struggling with them.
Contact with the present moment: Through practices such as mindfulness, the client develops awareness, openness, interest, and receptiveness to the here and now.
The Observing Self: The client develops a transcendent sense of self, recognizing that their thoughts, feelings, memories, and physical body are constantly changing, and are not the essence of who they are.
Values: The client identifies and clarifies what is most important to them and who they want to be.
Committed action: The client sets goals based on their values and works toward them responsibly and meaningfully.
With ACT, the therapist works with the client on their self-talk and helps the client determine what issues require immediate action or change, and what can be accepted as-is. The therapist guides the client to stop fighting his or her emotions and past experiences, and instead practice more helpful behaviors to achieve personal goals.
Does ACT work?
ACT has been used to treat or manage a variety of behavioral health concerns, as well as manage physical conditions such as chronic pain and diabetes. Uses for ACT include:
Social anxiety disorder
The research into ACT is still somewhat limited, but evidence suggests that ACT is superior to placebo for treating several concerns. Other research suggests that ACT may be equal to established interventions in treating anxiety disorders, depression, addiction, and somatic health problems.
Like most behavioral health treatment approaches, ACT is highly adaptable to different providers, clients, and settings. Shouldn’t your EHR solution be just as flexible? BestNotes offers EHR solutions that can be customized to your practice’s unique needs to help you save time, reduce frustration, improve profitability, and meet state reporting requirements. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a demo.