Introduction to ACT

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

“What we need to learn to do is to look at thought, rather than from thought.”
Steven C. Hayes.

Clients and other therapists who know me know that I consider myself an “eclectic” therapist, i.e., one who utilizes a variety of therapeutic modalities, rather than just one form of therapy.

As such, I have used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Family Systems Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and, now, finally, I have started the process to become certified in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This all began as a response to my work with people suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is what led me to EMDR. However, when I began working exclusively through telemedicine, I no longer felt I could use EMDR with my clients who have PTSD, as I feel it is contraindicated for these clients, as they can experience dissociation, and I cannot, in good faith, conduct a therapy session with a client who might dissociate while I cannot reach them, leading them to, potentially, becoming unsafe. As such, I felt I had to find another treatment option for these clients, so I found my way to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) came into “being” in 1982, when Steven C. Hayes identified a “new” way of working with patients, with a framework that has some things in common with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

ACT focuses on helping people feel and express, indeed, accept, unpleasant feelings, and to learn how to deal with them and to NOT overreact to them, or try to avoid them.

ACT differs from CBT primarily in working helping people better “manage” their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories by just “noticing, accepting and embracing” those states/events, rather than trying to change or reject them. This is a goal with ACT even in the case of unwanted states/events.

6 Core Psychological Flexibility Processes

Stage 1 – Acceptance, to allow unwanted states/events/experiences to come and go without fighting them.

Stage 2 – Defusion, to stop trying to make these states/events/experiences “concrete,” but, instead understanding that they are abstracts.

Stage 3 – Present Moment, to be aware of the “here and the now.”

Stage 4 – Contextualized Self, to become intimate with the authentic self, the “real” self, as it is consistent and constant in life.

Stage 5 – Values, to identify what is most important to you.

Stage 6 – Committed Action, to identify and set goals based on one’s own values, and carrying them out responsibly, to lead to a meaningful, fulfilled life.

Stay tuned for the next Mental Health Musings, which will explore Stage 1 – Acceptance.

Movie Review – Killers of the Flower Moon

“In May, when coyotes howl beneath an unnervingly large moon, taller plants, such as spiderworts and black-eyed Susans, begin to creep over the tinier blooms, stealing their light and water. The necks of the smaller flowers break and their petals flutter away, and...

Five Tribes Therapy and Me – Part 3

When I was 26, I moved to San Diego, CA. It was the 80s - shoulder pads, hair bands, spandex, permed hair (the higher the better!) - and I was having a GREAT time! I worked at various places, made new friends, and found myself really enjoying the “bright lights, big...

Five Tribes Therapy and Me – Part 2

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kansas, a state that derived its name from Indigenous Americans (the Kansa, or Kaw, of eastern Kansas and Oklahoma), was a predominantly mono-cultural place. The small town in western Kansas where I was raised was much the same. There were no...

Five Tribes Therapy and Me – Part 1

On June 15, 2023, The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States, with a 7-2 vote. Being a “pre-ICWA baby,” born some years before ICWA was established in Congress, this was a very emotional and impactful day for me. As the...

ACT Stage 6 – Committed Action

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) “To become a butterfly, you must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” Winnie – the – Pooh We’ve been taking an in-depth look at Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). As I’ve covered in...

ACT Stage 5 – Values

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) “We can select a valued action, never mind we’re feeling flat. Because a mood is only fleeting and there’s more to us than that. Corinne Shields  6 Core Psychological Flexibility Processes Stage 1 – Acceptance, to allow unwanted...

ACT Stage 4 – Contextualized Self

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) “This above all. To thine own self be true.” William Shakespeare. 6 Core Psychological Flexibility Processes Stage 4 – Contextualized Self, to become intimate with the authentic self, the “real” self, as it is consistent and...

ACT Stage 3 – Present Moment

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer Present Moment. Mindfulness. Groundedness. These are all concepts present, indeed, foundational, in ACT. I no longer notice that I am...

ACT Stage 2 – Defusion

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) “When you accept things you have no control of, you give yourself the freedom to focus on things you do.” Aimmee Kodachian As we discussed in the previous Mental Health Musings, ACT is basically built on the concept of...

ACT Stage 1 – Acceptance

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” Carl Jung. I’ve been working within the specialty of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) since I began my career back in the late 1990s. I started my career as a...