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Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT, typically pronounced as the word “act”) is a form of psychotherapy and a branch of clinical behavior analysis. It is an empirically-based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. The approach was originally called comprehensive distancing. There are a variety of protocols for ACT, depending on the target behavior or setting. For example, in behavioral health areas a brief version of ACT is called focused acceptance and commitment therapy (FACT).

The objective of ACT is not elimination of difficult feelings; rather, it is to be present with what life brings us and to “move toward valued behavior”. Acceptance and commitment therapy invites people to open up to unpleasant feelings, and learn not to overreact to them, and not avoid situations where they are invoked. Its therapeutic effect is a positive spiral where feeling better leads to a better understanding of the truth. In ACT, ‘truth’ is measured through the concept of ‘workability’, or what works to take another step toward what matters (e.g. values, meaning, etc.)

Rather than trying to teach people to better control their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories and other private events, ACT teaches them to “just notice,” accept, and embrace their private events, especially previously unwanted ones. ACT helps the individual get in contact with a transcendent sense of self known as self-as-context—the you who is always there observing and experiencing and yet distinct from one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories. ACT aims to help the individual clarify their personal values and to take action on them, bringing more vitality and meaning to their life in the process, increasing their psychological flexibility.

As a simple way to summarize the model, ACT views the core of many problems to be due to the concepts represented in the acronym, FEAR:
• Fusion with your thoughts
• Evaluation of experience
• Avoidance of your experience
• Reason-giving for your behavior
And the healthy alternative is to ACT:
• Accept your reactions and be present
• Choose a valued direction
• Take action