Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

What is ACT?

ACT is a behavioural treatment that aims to help individuals accept discomfort and commit toward value-driven action. It is based on the idea that suffering comes from our attempts to avoid emotional pain, not the experience of pain itself. Therefore, it focuses on helping individuals be open and willing to experience distress (because it’s impossible to avoid all distress), while focusing on living a meaningful life. ACT has been shown to be effective for difficulties such as anxiety, depression and life dissatisfaction.

Six core processes in ACT

There are six core processes in ACT:

  • Contact with the present moment: Being able to consciously connect to what is happening now.
  • Defusion from our negative thoughts, worries or memories: A way to defuse, or step back from our thinking, rather than being caught in our thinking.
  • Acceptance: The ability to make room for negative feelings, rather than struggling with or avoiding them.
  • Observing self: The act of increasing awareness of your thoughts, feelings, urges, judgments or beliefs.
  • Values: Clarifying what you want your life to be about– what you want to stand for.
  • Committed action: Taking action that is guided by your values, even if it is difficult or uncomfortable.



Hayes, S.C., Luoma, J.B., Bond, F.W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes, and outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 1-25.

Hayes, S.C., Wilson, K.G., Gifford, E.V., Follette, V.M., & Strosahl, K. (1996). Experiential avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 1152-1168.

Walser, R.D., & Hayes, S.C. (1998). Acceptance and trauma survivors: Applied issues and problems. In V.M. Follette, J.I. Ruzek, & F.R. Abueg (Eds.), Cognitive-behavioral therapies for trauma (pp.256-277). New York: Guilford.