What is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)? 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of stress management and is based on the premise that you should accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life.

Symptom reduction is not a goal of ACT, based on the view that on-going attempts to get rid of ‘symptoms’ can create problems in the first place. Instead, the aim of ACT is to maximise human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life.

The six core principles of ACT are:

Cognitive defusion

This involves learning to perceive thoughts, images, memories as what they are – nothing more than bits of language, words and pictures – as opposed to what they can appear to be – threatening events, rules that must be obeyed, objective truths and facts.


This involves making room for unpleasant feelings, sensations, urges, and other private experiences. This means allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or giving them undue attention.

Contact with the present moment (mindfulness)

Mindfulness can be defined as: ‘Consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience with openness, interest and receptiveness.’ There are many aspects to mindfulness, including living in the present moment; engaging fully in what you are doing instead of ‘getting lost’ in your thoughts; and allowing your feelings to come and go rather than trying to control them.

The observing self

From this perspective, it is possible to experience directly that you are not your thoughts, feelings, memories, urges, sensations, images, roles, or physical body.


This involves clarifying what sort of person you want to be; what is significant and meaningful to you; and what you want to stand for in this life.

Committed action

This includes setting goals, guided by your values, and taking effective action to achieve them.

What are the benefits?

It helps clients to:

  • Build the psychological skills to cope with difficult or painful thoughts and feelings effectively – in such a way that they have much less impact and influence.
  • Clarify what is truly important and meaningful to them – i.e. values – then uses that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate clients to change their life for the better.

What are the issues that can be addressed by ACT?

ACT has proven effectiveness with a diverse range of issues including:

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Useful Links

ACT – Psychology Today