ACT is a new, scientifically-based psychotherapy that is part of what is being called the “third wave” in behavioral and cognitive therapy. Like most “third wave” approaches, ACT is a contextualistic approach that embraces elements of both traditional behavior therapy and traditional CB, but adds new elements that carry this tradition in a new direction.
Developed within a coherent theoretical and philosophical framework, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a unique, empirically-based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. “Psychological flexibility” means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values.
ACT takes the view that trying to change difficult thoughts and feelings as a means of coping can be counterproductive. However, new and powerful alternatives are available, including acceptance, mindfulness, cognitive defusion, values, and committed action.
Research seems to be showing that these methods are beneficial for a broad range of clients. ACT teaches clients and therapists alike how to alter the way difficult private experiences are processed mentally rather than having to eliminate them from occurring at all. This empowering message has been shown to help clients cope with a wide variety of clinical problems, including anxiety, depression, stress, substance abuse, and even psychotic symptoms.