Acceptance and commitment therapy (or ACT) is a form of behavioural therapy that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to help increase psychological flexibility.
ACT therapy takes the view that by accepting negative thoughts and feelings, individuals can choose a valued direction in which to take action and make positive changes. In this way, acceptance and commitment therapy does not aim to directly change or stop unwanted problems and experiences. Instead it teaches individuals to develop a mindful relationship with them - promoting a psychological flexibility that encourages healthy contact with thoughts, reconnection with the here and now, realisation of personal values, and commitment to behaviour change.
Acceptance and commitment therapy involves a range of experiential exercises to subvert the power and significance of damaging emotive, cognitive, and behavioural processes. It aims to help individuals to change their relationship with negative thoughts and feelings that are taking over their lives and in some cases are greatly impacting their health and well-being.
The approach attempts to avoid or get rid of unwanted unpleasant thoughts and feelings - and offers a long-term solution to future health and happiness. This is usually applied in one-to-one sessions with clients, or in groups, where metaphors, visualisation exercises and behavioural homework will be used. The number and length of sessions will depend greatly on the needs of those taking part and the practicing methods of the counsellor. The overall duration of the treatment should be relatively short, however this factor will too depend on the client and counsellor.
There are six core processes that help an individual overcome their problems.
Acceptance and commitment therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of individuals. The empowering message of the approach - to alter the function rather than the existence of unpleasant thoughts and feelings - makes it particularly useful in helping clients to cope with problems such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, trauma, substance abuse, eating disorders and even psychotic symptoms.
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