Acceptance And Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, known as "ACT" and pronounced as the word 'act' is one of the recent mindfulness-based therapies shown to be effective with a diverse range of clinical conditions. In contrast to the assumption of 'healthy normality' of Western Psychology, ACT assumes that the psychological processes of a normal human mind are often destructive and create psychological suffering.

Symptom reduction is not a goal of ACT, based on the view that ongoing attempts to get rid of 'symptoms' can create clinical disorders in the first place.

Created in 1986 by Steve Hayes, ACT utilises an eclectic mix of metaphor, paradox, and mindfulness skills, along with experiential exercises and values-guided behavioural interventions. The approach has proven effective with a diverse range of clinical conditions, depression, OCD, workplace stress, chronic pain, the stress of terminal cancer, anxiety, PTSD, anorexia, heroin abuse, marijuana abuse, and even schizophrenia.

The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. 'ACT' is a good abbreviation, because this therapy is about taking effective action guided by our deepest values and in which we are fully present and engaged. It is only through mindful action that we can create a meaningful life. Of course, we will encounter all sorts of barriers, in the form of unpleasant and unwanted 'private experiences' (thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, urges, and memories). ACT teaches mindfulness skills as an effective way to handle these private experiences.

Mindfulness skills are 'divided' into four subsets:

-- Acceptance

-- Cognitive defusion

-- Contact with the present moment

-- The observing self.

The range of ACT interventions to devleop these skills is vast and continues to grow, ranging from traditional meditations on the breath through to cognitive defusion techniques.

Description provided by Russ Harris M.D., a medical practitioner and psychotherapist in private practice in Melbourne. He provides training in ACT and is the author of 'The Happiness Trap', published March 2007.