About Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Most therapists have a theoretical orientation that shapes the way they approach therapy. The approach they chose is usually influenced by their training (what they have learned), the evidence-base for their therapy (what has been found to work) and their own experience.

The approach favoured by Alison is Acceptance and Committment Therapy (ACT) because it is based on scientific principles, has a strong evidence base and Alison has found the approach to help when applied in own life.

ACT is based on functional contextualism (doing what works within a specific context) and the application of mindfulness to daily life and behaviour guided by values.

What is ACT?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behaviour change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility means being conciously in contact with the present moment and responding to the presenting situation in line with one's chosen values.

More simply, ACT is an intervention that helps people be more mindful and accepting, be less influenced by unhelpful thoughts, and act in line with their personal values.

How does it work?

ACT works through a number of processes or skills that are developed in therapy and through practice. The key ways in which ACT has been shown to help to reduce psychological suffering are by improving:

  • present moment awareness
  • acceptance (or willingness to experience emotions)
  • defusion (or letting go of unhelpful thoughts)
  • self-as-context (or contact with the observer self)
  • contact with one's own values
  • committed or values-based action

  • ACT therapists help clients to develop these skills in order to improve psychological flexibility or respond to difficult situations more skillfully. What is essential to the ACT approach is "workability" of doing what works.

    Although the stated intention of ACT is not to "get rid of" symptoms, like anxiety and depression, the use of these skills in daily life tends to result in a reduction in symptoms.

    What's the evidence?

    ACT is a relatively new therapy (about 20 years old) but it now has a large body of empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness in improving outcomes for a diverse variety of different problems. ACT has been found to be as effective as other evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) when directly compared.

    As ACT is committed to doing what works within for individuals in their specific situations, it also drawns on many other effective therapeutic techniques.

    Where can I find out more?

    A short video introduction to ACT

    For a summary of the science and principles of ACT click here.

    How is it different to CBT?

    coming soon...

    Other information