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What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy is effective for treating many conditions. Learn more about this treatment here.

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What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an action-oriented form of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. ACT helps you learn to listen to your own self-talk and determine if action is required to create change to solve a problem or if it can be accepted while making behavioral changes that can better the situation. ACT also uses mindfulness techniques to help cope with stress, change perspectives, and create a healthier outlook on life.1

How Does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Work?

ACT therapy focuses on accepting life experiences and events as they come. Acceptance and commitment therapy exercises used during sessions help to build a new and more compassionate relationship with difficult experiences.2

ACT helps clients to realize that their emotions aren’t all bad, and that they can work through the negative ones in order to help reframe their thought processes. ACT works to utilize mindfulness in this way, and helps clients create more self-awareness in general daily life.

What is ACT Used to Treat?

ACT therapy has also shown to be effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions, behavioral disorders, and chronic health conditions. These will be detailed below.

Anxiety Disorders

Acceptance therapy for anxiety can be an effective treatment method. ACT for anxiety uses a variety of mindfulness exercises to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety that someone experiences in their daily life. Over time, acceptance therapy for anxiety can help someone learn coping skills to better manage anxious thoughts and feelings.


Acceptance therapy can also be beneficial for those who struggle with depression. ACT therapy skills can help someone with depression learn coping mechanisms to manage their symptoms and begin taking action with steps towards recovery.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Acceptance therapy can also be beneficial for those who struggle with OCD. Practicing acceptance in ACT therapy can help someone with OCD learn to cope and manage compulsive actions.

Bipolar Disorder

Mindfulness ACT therapy can also be beneficial in treating bipolar disorder. Acceptance and commitment therapy for bipolar disorder involves mindfulness techniques that can be used to help deal with mood swings and other common symptoms that someone may be struggling with.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Acceptance and commitment training can help those who struggle with ADHD. ACT for ADHD involves learning acceptance and mindfulness-based techniques to deal with hyperactive and compulsive actions that are common with ADHD.


ACT therapy skills can be used to help cope with stress. Mindfulness ACT therapy skills can be used for relaxation and to refocus the mind in stressful situations.

Chronic Pain

ACT interventions can also help those who struggle with chronic pain. Chronic pain can be debilitating and can affect someone’s mental well-being in many ways. Acceptance-based therapy helps teach skills to manage chronic pain and help someone create a more positive outlook on their situation.


Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain throughout the body. It can be very debilitating and can cause mental distress in those who suffer from fibromyalgia pain. ACT interventions can help those who struggle with fibromyalgia learn to cope with their situation and create a healthy perspective on ways they can manage their condition.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD can negatively affect someone’s life in many ways. Acceptance and commitment training can help someone struggling with IBD learn to better cope with their situation.

Substance Use Disorders

ACT can be beneficial in treating substance use disorders. Therapy techniques used in ACT can create more positive behavioral patterns and can also be used to treat any underlying conditions that may be contributing to substance abuse.

Six Core Processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

The ACT therapy model operates under six core processes that are used to treat clients.


ACT techniques start with learning acceptance. Through acceptance, you can begin better managing emotions and feelings associated with daily life circumstances and learn coping mechanisms that can help.

Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion is a technique that involves looking and thoughts and feeling from a distance. Acceptance and commitment therapy exercises using cognitive defusion can help you learn to change the way you react to distressing thoughts and feelings.

Self as Context

Self as context is an idea that states that people are more than their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Acceptance and commitment training using self as context techniques can help you create a different relationship with your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in order to create a more positive outlook on life.

Being Present

Mindfulness ACT therapy techniques will help you learn to be present in the moment. This can help to cope with stress, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors.


Acceptance and commitment therapy activities can help you create positive personal values that you strive to uphold. This is a good way to create more positive actions in daily life.


Acceptance and commitment therapy activities can help you create goals and commitment toward improving your personal situation. This can lead to more positive daily habits that lead to better overall well-being.

 acceptance and commitment therapy

What to Expect from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

During acceptance-based therapy, your therapist will ask you questions about your current situation and learn about what you are struggling with. Your therapist will then help you set goals and create an ACT treatment plan that you will follow over a number of therapy sessions. ACT mindfulness exercises and activities will be used to help learn coping mechanisms and create acceptance during difficult circumstances.

How Does ACT Differ From Other Mindfulness-Based Approaches?

ACT differs from other mindfulness-based approaches because it combines mindfulness techniques with action-oriented skills training. ACT teaches both acceptance and action to help someone better their life and outlook on their personal situation.3

Acceptance commitment therapy sessions usually follow a common structure that has shown to be successful.

Building Rapport

The first part of an ACT treatment plan is building rapport between the client and therapist. Building initial rapport and trust is necessary to get the best results from treatment.

Deeper Awareness

The next stage of acceptance and commitment therapy training is gaining deeper awareness. Mindfulness techniques are often used during this stage to help gain a deeper understanding of someone’s struggles and become aware of how those struggles are affecting them.

Core Values

Acceptance and commitment therapy techniques are then used to help find core values that someone wants to uphold. This creates more positive daily habits.


Goals are then created for actions that the client can take to better their personal situation.


Lastly, the client must show commitment by following through on the actions they want to take.

Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Common benefits of ACT therapy are that it:

  • Focuses on enriching the lives of people, regardless of symptoms
  • Helps us become more flexible psychologically
  • Acknowledges negative experiences are a part of life
  • Helps set goals to create a better personal situation
  • Encourages taking action
  • Helps find acceptance for difficult circumstances
  • Creates a more positive outlook on life
  • Leads to better mental health and well-being
  • Leads to more positive behaviors and daily habits

Is ACT Therapy Effective?

Research has shown that ACT can be effective in treating mental health and substance use disorders. ACT therapy is especially effective when combined with other treatment methods in a well-rounded treatment program.4

How to Find an ACT Therapist

If you are looking for ACT counseling services, there are many ways you can find a therapist. Consulting your doctor or contacting a treatment center about ACT treatment are good first steps you can take. You can also search online for ACT therapy services near you to learn about resources available in your area.

Get Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at Great Oaks Recovery Center

If you are looking for acceptance and commitment therapy, Great Oaks can help. Great Oaks has licensed ACT therapists who can help treat a variety of conditions, including substance abuse and mental health issues. Contact us today for more information about how we can help you.



Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.