Q. What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
A. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT (pronounced ‘act’) is a modern form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that is widely recognised as an effective treatment for a range of difficulties.
Q. How does ACT work?
A. ACT aims to help people live rich, vital and meaningful lives. Therapy involves teaching people skills to:
- deal more effectively with distressing and painful thoughts and emotions;
- clarify what really matters to them and what they want their life to be about; and
- engage in behaviours that are guided by their values.
Q. Who benefits from ACT?
A. ACT has been researched extensively and found to be effective for people with a wide range of problems including:
- anxiety disorders;
- obsessive-compulsive disorder;
- workplace stress;
- chronic pain;
- diabetes management;
- adjustment to cancer;
- smoking cessation; and
- borderline personality disorder.
ACT is also useful for people struggling with issues related to parenting, relationships, sleep, and performance anxiety.
Because ACT targets processes common to a range of problems of daily living, it is especially helpful for people with co-morbid conditions. Its heavy use of metaphor and “hands on” learning also make ACT ideally suited to low literacy populations.
Q. Is ACT the same as mindfulness?
A. Mindfulness is a mental state of active, open, attention to the present moment. Mindfulness skills are taught in ACT to help people deal with difficult thoughts and emotions. However, mindfulness is just one element of ACT, which also teaches ways to help people move towards living by their values.
Q. How is ACT different from traditional CBT?
A. ACT is an adaptation of traditional CBT. The table below shows the main points of differentiation between the two therapies using anxiety as an example.
|Therapy goal||Reduction in symptoms of anxiety.||Improved quality of life. Accepting
anxious thoughts and feelings rather
than struggling with so that anxiety has less impact and influence on behaviour
when it shows up.
|Treatment of anxious
|Cognitive restructuring skills are
taught to examine and change
difficult ‘threat-related’ thoughts.
|Cognitive “defusion” skills are taught used
to disentangle or distance from
|Treatment of anxious
|Control of symptoms is emphasised;
e.g., symptom-monitoring, relaxation
training and cognitive restructuring
|Acceptance of anxious feelings,
sensations and emotions (and
control of behaviour) is emphasised;
e.g., mindfulness, values guided