What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy? Learn about acceptance and commitment therapy, how it operates, the benefits, and its effectiveness.

Origin of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Steven C. Hayes, a researcher and psychologist, is credited with developing acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in 1982. Since its inception more than two decades ago, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has rapidly evolved into a popular, evidence-based behavior management tool recognized for its efficacy in treating a wide range of psychological and physical disorders.1
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Running from an issue delays the solution. Problem-solving is the easiest way out. Acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) offers mindfulness practices to help you live by your principles and create psychological flexibility. 2

What to Expect From Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

In the realm of psychotherapy, relationships are distinct. Nevertheless, regardless of how you and your psychotherapist collaborate, you can anticipate certain universals.

Typically, you may anticipate awkwardness, laughter, and tears. Everyone experiences therapy uniquely. In the first session, you will become acquainted with your treatment team and discuss the essentials. It can include how often you see your therapist, how long your sessions will last, and how payment will be handled.

You will acquire practical skills, strategies, and methods. Request that your therapy team explains or documents an effective process. It’s OK to consider these crucial and attempt to remember them.

Six Core Processes of Mindfulness ACT Therapy

ACT therapy focuses on assisting you in accepting, rather than rejecting or changing, your stressful life experiences. It also includes mindfulness exercises to help you develop a more sympathetic and understanding approach to difficult situations. It may aid in your recovery from obsessive negative thinking. There are six parts to this ACT therapy process:


Acceptance in ACT therapy implies allowing inner ideas and sensations to occur without altering or rejecting them. Acceptance is a dynamic process with no one-size-fits-all formula.3

Cognitive Defusion

In cognitive defusion techniques, you attempt to detach yourself from your inner thoughts and feelings. It enables you to perceive thoughts for what they truly are, devoid of the weight you assign to them in your imagination.

Self As Context

As a part of this process, you’ll learn to differentiate your thoughts about yourself from your behaviors and actions.

Being Present

It is important to stay aware of what is going on around you and not get distracted by your emotions and experiences. Mindfulness ACT therapy teaches you to be present.


Values are the aspects of your existence that are so significant that they can spur you to take action. Acceptance and Commitment Training focuses on reinforcing such values.


Commitment involves using therapy concepts and principles to guide you through the process of self-improvement.

How is ACT Different From Other Mindfulness-Based Approaches?

Acceptance and Commitment Training, along with mindfulness DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Stress Reduction Therapy, and other mindfulness-based treatments, is a “third wave” kind of psychotherapy.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy was the first of these “third wave” treatments and had empirical evidence to support its efficacy. Overt behavioral change and operant and classical conditioning strategies dominated “first wave” behavioral therapies in the mental health sector in the 1950s and 1960s. The “second wave” of cognitive treatments emerged in the 1970s. In this “second wave,” dialectical behavioral therapies became the most popular.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

DBT combines individual talk therapy with group skills training to treat BPD (borderline personality disorder). On the other hand, mental health professionals often use Acceptance and Commitment training with various therapeutic populations with individuals, groups, families, and couples in both short-term and long-term treatment.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy also enables your treatment team to construct and tailor their mindfulness approaches or co-create them with you, rather than following a manualized framework. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is the first Western psychotherapy born from a basic research endeavor incorporated into cognition and human language.

What Is Unique to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) teaches patients to accept their unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

Self Improvement

Acceptance and Commitment Training pushes you to accept circumstances beyond your control and devote yourself to improving your life. You learn that experiencing unpleasant feelings is normal. Taking even the bad portion of your life frees you to move away from them and onto a more positive path.

Distinguished Foundation

The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is the only Western therapy established in combination with its basic research plan into language and cognition, (or the RFT-Relational Frame Theory). It is in sharp contrast to most psychotherapies used in the West.

ACT Does Not Have Symptom Reduction As A Goal

The purpose of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy activities is not symptom alleviation. It is based on the theory that attempting to eliminate “symptoms” can cause a clinical condition in the first place. A battle with the so-called ” symptom ” ensues when your experience is characterized as a “symptom,” and a struggle with the so-called “symptom” ensues. A “symptom” is something “pathological” that we need to work toward getting rid of to feel better.

Learning Acceptance and Commitment Therapy exercises aim to change our connection with challenging thoughts and emotions so that they are no longer considered “symptoms.” Rather, you learn to think of your symptoms as normal, albeit unpleasant. Ironically, ACT accomplishes symptom reduction goals via this approach—but only as a side effect, not as the primary purpose.

What Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Can Help With

The benefits of ACT therapy are many, including helping manage:
  • Work stress
  • Depression
  • Stress regulation
  • Phobias
  • Anxiety
  • Substance use disorders

Benefits of Commitment Acceptance Therapy

Most people see Acceptance and Commitment to Therapy and psychological flexibility as the apex of well-being and good health, which this treatment plan seeks to promote. Psychological flexibility can improve mental health, healthier habits, and more adaptability.

Psychological Adaptability

Psychological adaptability has the following advantages:
  • Staying in the present and having an awareness of your present environment and circumstances along with its emotions, ups and downs, sad sensations, and unclear disturbing thoughts
  • Being more open and accepting of all your emotional encounters
  • Recognizing and adapting to situational needs by shifting your mindset and choosing a behavior accordingly
  • Using any available mental resources effectively
  • Bettering your ability to regulate your feelings and emotions
  • Balancing any competing areas of your life, desires, needs, and areas of life
  • Rebounding from your stressors and hardships and planning and focusing on achieving your life goals
  • Aiming for the best quality of life

Structure of an ACT Therapy Session

While attending an ACT group therapy session, it is normal to expect the following therapy stages:

Making a Connection

You’ll probably address some of your problems with your treatment team the first few times you meet with them. You’ll discuss how you’re feeling and what you’ve done in the past that has or hasn’t helped.

Increased Sensitivity

Your Commitment and Acceptance Therapy (ACT) professional will assist you in identifying areas in your life where you may be harboring harmful beliefs or are hesitant to share with others. It may be a source of comfort as you work through difficult memories and accept the things you can’t change.


You’ll collaborate with your treatment team to start the process of changing your ideas and activities. Focus on what you can change and accept what you cannot.


Once you’ve gone through Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Exercises and other things to master, your counselor will assist you in identifying ways to incorporate its key concepts into your everyday life. The aim is to develop a thorough plan for the long-term implementation of what you’ve learned.

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Is Mindfulness ACT Therapy Effective?

ACT has shown encouraging results in preliminary research, including randomized clinical trials comparing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy techniques to alternative therapies or regular  psychosocial treatments.

More studies are required to compare the mindfulness ACT with other empirically proven interventions like 12-step programs and standard relapse prevention measures. Mental health researchers must also thoroughly study ACT’s behavior modification mechanisms to understand how and why they work. It will also help uncover any limitations of ACT therapy if any.

As of now, promising data shows that ACT therapy skills can come in handy in treating drug abuse, although it is quite limited.

How to Find an ACT Therapist

Various mental health experts are qualified to instill ACT therapy skills in clients, including psychiatrists, social workers, social psychologists, and psychologists. Whatever sort of therapist you pick, be sure they match the following requirements:
  • A postgraduate qualification (advanced degree) in an area related to mental health
  • They have accreditation and a license to practice in the jurisdiction or state where you reside or intend to seek treatment.
  • Additional Acceptance and Commitment Therapy training and experience

Get Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at Essence HC

Can you imagine an alternate therapy that doesn’t target symptoms directly but does so as a side effect? The core processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are scientifically based and help to promote values, forgiveness, acceptance, empathy, living in the present, and achieving an ethereal sense of self.

Rather than aggressively modifying or suppressing unwanted thoughts or feelings, ACT encourages you to develop a new and loving relationship with them. If you or a loved one has a mental condition, the reputable Essence HC. offers a well-run ACT treatment plan to help you deal with your negative emotions. Give us a call right now!

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.