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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

What is ACT?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is becoming a popular option for people who are struggling with the psychological consequences of living with long-term health conditions, or the symptoms of those conditions, including chronic pain. ACT is based on the idea that many of the emotions and thoughts that people living with long-term conditions can experience, reflect appropriate responses and are understandable. ACT teaches people to find ways to manage their emotional state by acknowledging and embracing difficult thoughts and feelings, rather than letting them become overwhelming resulting in chronic levels of anger, strong feelings of resentment and the avoidance of difficult situations.

ACT helps people to ‘be’ with their thoughts and feelings and to acknowledge them for what they are and what they represent, rather than being in a constant ‘fight with themselves’. Fighting thoughts and feelings can be counterproductive because it often makes symptoms worse.  ACT encourages the acceptance of thoughts in a non-judgemental way.

ACT adopts the view that there are valid alternatives to trying to change the way people think, and these include mindful behaviour, attention to personal values, and commitment to action. By taking steps to change behaviour while, at the same time, learning to accept their psychological experiences, people can eventually change attitudes and emotional states by developing and expanding psychological flexibility.   The goal of ACT is not to reduce the frequency or severity of difficult thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Rather, the goal is to   reduce people’s struggle to control or eliminate these experiences while increasing involvement in meaningful life activities (i.e., those that are consistent with an individual’s personal values) improving overall quality of life.