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Acceptance and Commitment (ACT) therapy, developed in the 1980s by Dr. Steven Hayes, is an empirically-based treatment that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies combined with behaviour change strategies in order to increase psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility is the ability to live life fully and in the present moment and to change behaviours based on one’s long-term values.

Six basic principles form the foundation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

The principles are:

  • Cognitive defusion – learning to accept thoughts as mere thoughts
  • Expansion and acceptance – making room for unpleasant thoughts and feelings
  • Connect with the present moment – observing the here and now
  • The Observing Self – observing thinking and feeling in a non-judgmental way
  • Values clarification – understanding one’s true values
  • Committed action – committing to actions aligned with values

Through specific exercises, clients learn how to make healthier relationships with their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Clients commit to facing their problems head-on rather than avoiding negative feelings, thereby developing greater clarity about personal values and commitment for change.

ACT has been effectively used to treat stress, anxiety, depression, OCD and interpersonal difficulties.

The Goal of ACT

The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life while accepting that pain is a normal part of the human experience. The theory behind this therapy is that it is ineffective and counterproductive to control painful emotions or psychological experiences because suppression of these feelings ultimately leads to more distress. ACT adopts the view that mindful behaviour, attention to personal values and commitment to action is a better alternative

How it Works

This therapy teaches clients to be fully present and engaged while taking effective actions to their problems, guided by their deepest values. The idea is that mindful action leads to a meaningful life. By taking steps to change behaviour while, at the same time, learning to accept their psychological experiences, clients can eventually change their attitude and emotional state.

What to Expect

Working with a therapist, you will learn to recognize and develop an acceptance of unwanted private experiences. You will also learn to commit and take action towards living a valued life. The therapist will help guide you on how to understand your own personal values and goals. You may look at what hasn’t worked for you in the past so that you can understand and stop repeating unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours. Once you have faced and accepted your current issues, the therapist will help you to make a commitment to practice more confident and optimistic behaviour based on your personal values.

ACT for Specific Disorders

Sometimes patients choose to undergo ACT Cognitive Therapy to counteract negative symptoms associated with a particular psychological issue. For example, individuals with anxiety, depression, eating or emotional issues use ACT to develop self-coping and problem-solving skills.

One of the ways experts describe ACT is as a method of controlling self or mind bullying. This internal bullying occurs when you experience a sense of self-destruction or self-sabotage. Through the skills developed in ACT, you learn to change these destructive thoughts into supportive thoughts without dismissing the fact that you experience negative emotions and feelings.

Opening Your Mind to ACT

At the Cognitive & Interpersonal Therapy Centre, we understand that no two people are exactly alike. We construct individualized ACT plans to meet you where you are and support you in the personal goals and values you create.

Opening your mind is not always easy. ACT uses mindfulness strategies such as meditation and breathing techniques to encourage a safe and open environment where you can be vulnerable and get to know the real you. Getting to know yourself better gives you the power to accept your thoughts and change the physical outcomes they create in your external life.

Contact the Cognitive & Interpersonal Therapy Centre

The Cognitive & Interpersonal Therapy Centre is proud to help you. Located in Toronto, we serve people of all ages and backgrounds.

If you need help accepting yourself and creating a positive space despite negative thought patterns, we can help you with ACT. Contact the Cognitive & Interpersonal Therapy Centre to learn more about our services. To get in touch, we invite you to call 416-570-5050 or visit our online contact page.

Click on the link to book a session with one of our team members.

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