Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)


ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is an approach created by Stephen C. Hayes. ACT places an emphasis on values – the things that are most important and that serve as guideposts for how people live their lives – and employs mindfulness as a tool for more values-based living.


ACT is based on the idea that when one tries to avoid or suppress their problems, it only serves to worsen them. Well-being is considered to arise from the quality of “cognitive flexibility”, which comes from a greater capacity to accept thoughts and feelings without trying to change them. Repetitive negative thoughts can be a major source of distress, and ACT aims to help individuals separate who they are from what they think and feel, instead using the commitment to living in line with one’s values as a guiding principle for the choices one makes.


One of the goals in Acceptance and Commitment therapy for clients to learn to stop suppressing their emotions and instead to work towards accepting them. The process of therapy is experiential in nature, meaning clients can expect to engage in activities in session rather than talking around the problem. Mindfulness is an essential part of ACT and is used to expand people’s capacity to experience uncomfortable emotions. Clients are also guided in identifying their core values and are supported in working towards committed action reflective of their values and desires.

Issues ACT has been proven effective in treating:

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Social anxiety
  • Depression
  • OCD
  • Chronic pain
  • Substance use

References: Harris, R. (2007). The happiness trap: stop struggling, start living. Wollombi, Australia: Exisle Publishing.

Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: an experiential approach to behavior change. New York: The Guildford Press.

  • Coping when a member of the family is dealing with an addiction or mental illness
  • Addressing issues related to financial strain, immigration, divorce, deaths, and life transitions
Narrative Therapy

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