Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Delving Deeper into Mindfulness


Megan McGinn, PsyD

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a therapeutic approach rooted in the principles of mindfulness and acceptance. It aims to help individuals develop psychological flexibility by accepting their thoughts and feelings while committing to actions aligned with their values. Read on to find out more!

While traditional therapy will diagnose a condition such as anxiety as a mental illness (ie, Generalized Anxiety Disorder), define it as a problem in functioning, and build a treatment around getting rid of it, ACT takes a less pathologizing approach. It emphasizes that patients should accept the fact that they have anxiety and work with it, rather than resisting it.

Through embracing and observing our mental struggles, we develop self-compassion and are empowered to overcome them. This is in opposition to the traditional concept of defining ourselves as having disorders that make us “sicker” than others and that need to be cured.

Understanding Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT focuses on enhancing psychological flexibility, which involves being open, adaptable, and present in the moment. It emphasizes accepting thoughts and emotions without judgment and committing to actions that align with one’s values. It involves six core processes that are defined here:

  1. Cognitive Defusion: Learning to detach from and observe thoughts without being dominated by them.
  2. Acceptance: Embracing emotions and experiences rather than resisting or avoiding them.
  3. Present Moment Awareness: Being fully engaged in the current moment.
  4. Self-as-Context: Recognizing that thoughts and feelings are transient and do not define one’s identity.
  5. Values Clarification: Identifying and connecting with personal values.
  6. Committed Action: Taking purposeful steps toward valued goals.

Practicing ACT in Your Life

  1. Mindful Awareness:
    • Practice mindfulness meditation to increase awareness of your thoughts and emotions.
    • Set aside time for mindful activities, such as mindful walking or eating.
  2. Cognitive Defusion:
    • Observe your thoughts without judgment. Instead of saying, “I am anxious,” say, “I am noticing feelings of anxiety.”
    • Use metaphors to create distance from your thoughts, like seeing them as passing clouds.
  3. Acceptance:
    • Embrace both positive and challenging emotions. Allow them to come and go without resisting.
    • Avoid suppression or avoidance of uncomfortable feelings.
  4. Values Clarification:
    • Reflect on your core values and what truly matters to you in life.
    • Align your actions with these values, making choices that are consistent with your principles.
  5. Committed Action:
    • Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps.
    • Take actions that align with your values, even in the face of discomfort or fear.
  6. Self-Reflection:
    • Regularly check in with yourself to assess your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
    • Adjust your approach as needed to stay true to your values.

Remember, practicing ACT is an ongoing process that requires patience and self-compassion. Seek support from a mental health professional, as they can provide guidance and additional tools for incorporating ACT into your life. Feel free to reach out to your Radish Care Team anytime to get help connecting with a therapist!

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