Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is closely related to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It is primarily a behavioural therapy that assists clients to break free from rigid inflexible belief systems and behaviour patterns. The theory asserts that if the client ‘acts’ in line with their values (despite their emotional discomfort), and ultimately ‘accepts’ their internal experiences, such as cognitions and feelings, only then can true progress be made.
ACT uses several ‘techniques’ to help clients realise that worrying about their thoughts and trying to avoid them and/or their feelings will not help them relieve their distress. Once individuals have realised that trying to avoid/deny their feelings is not helping them, they are asked to consider being ‘willing’ to accept the thoughts and feelings (as just that – thoughts and feelings!) and commit to behaving in a way that is in line with their values and valued life direction.
ACT’s strength lies in assisting clients to experience distressing thoughts and emotions without becoming paralysed by them. This parallels Exposure, which has the greatest empirical support, especially for use with anxiety and phobia, of all psychological techniques.