What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
I will tell you about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT in this article.
ACT is a model of behaviour change.
It’s all about helping people do things that work better for themselves, their communities, and this beautiful planet.
Since the first book on ACT came out in 1999, it has been researched, refined and delivered by thousands of practitioners worldwide.
The founders of ACT were researching behavioural analysis long before the late nineties, and the roots of ACT go right back to the 1930s and the work of BF Skinner.
Check out his 1953 book, Science and Human Behavior, for more about that.
Or, if you’d prefer a more contemporary text, you can’t do better than the ABCs of Human Behavior by Jonas Ramnero and Niklas Torneke.
How does ACT work?
ACT is about alleviating human suffering and advancing well-being through contextual behavioural science. That’s the mission of an exceptional global community known as the Association for Contextual and Behavioral Science. Take a look at their website at www.contextualscience.org.
ACT works by helping people to be more psychologically flexible, and study after study has shown that psychological flexibility mediates improvements in well-being and reduces distress.
How do you become more psychologically flexible?
It’s all about learning to increase your range of motion; just like if you’ve got tight muscles, you need to build up your strength and flexibility gradually. You aren’t going to become a champion hand stander overnight.
Except, we aren’t talking about your muscles here. We are talking about how you relate to specific events in your life. I’ll be more likely to act inflexibly when uncomfortable or painful stuff happens. I’ll run away from what I’m feeling or get stuck in my head. I’ll dwell on the past or future. I’ll get critical of myself. I’ll lose sight of what’s more essential and neglect to do what’s right for my well-being and those around me. These six processes make up psychological inflexibility.
Let’s compare being inflexible with being flexible:
- When you’re flexible, instead of running away from emotions, you’ll allow yourself to feel them.
- Instead of getting stuck in your head, you’ll learn how to unhook from unhelpful thoughts.
- Instead of dwelling on the past or future, you’ll connect with the present moment.
- Instead of getting all down on yourself, you’ll learn to take a different perspective.
- Instead of losing sight of what’s valuable, you’ll tune in to the more significant purposes that give your life meaning and fulfilment.
- Instead of neglecting your well-being, you’ll build patterns of healthy behaviours that work for you, your groups and your planet.
Put all this together, and you’ve got psychological flexibility.
How do you get good at ACT?
Developing psychological flexibility is one of our biggest challenges. To experience it directly in our lives, we need to do it. To teach your clients the skills they need to be more flexible, you must learn the tools and practice showing them how to do it. To deliver ACT more precision and depth, you need to learn the basic science that underpins it.
You can find the theory and develop the tools in various ways: by reading books and articles, going to workshops, getting proper supervision, listening to podcasts and watching videos like this.
You can get easy access to more of these videos about ACT by clicking going to my Youtube channel, APT in ACT.