Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based therapy that combines both mindfulness-based and behavioural-based principles to help you live a meaningful life. Steven C. Hayes, PhD, developed ACT in the 1980s as part of the third wave of cognitive behaviour therapies.
ACT helps you learn more practical skills to untangle from your unwanted thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and painful memories. An overarching theory in ACT is that by learning to accept and unhook from your internal experiences [because you learn to see them for what they are and how they hinder you], it will help you respond flexibly and act in ways that are consistent with your deepest held values.
Clarifying your values and improving your ability to respond more compassionately to unwanted thoughts and feelings is at the core of ACT. We suffer less when we allow our thoughts and feelings to come and go. Rather than expending copious amounts of mental and emotional energy on trying to control them, we refocus on taking action towards our values and what's within our control. We can only change reality once we've accepted what it is. That's why ACT uses a variety of acceptance and change-based strategies to help you move when you're feeling stuck.
Let's imagine you're lost at sea and sailing through stormy waters. There's quite some distance between you and the island that you want to arrive at and there's sea monsters rearing their ugly heads, which makes it terrifying and challenging to stay on course. Let's call these monsters, "Anxiety", "Depression", "Panic", "Fear", "Self-doubt", "Loneliness", and "Post-traumatic stress". Avoidance might save some sweat and tears temporarily, but ultimately, you know deep down that you want to reap the benefits of the island.
Working from an ACT approach means learning how to clarify what it is you're sailing towards and how you want to show up for yourself and others while waters are stormy and monsters are present. It also means learning skills to tame the monsters, so that they may exist, but they won't prevent you from sailing your desired path. We might not be able to make the monsters vanish completely, but we can get better at responding to them in ways that help us rather than harm us.
Six Core Processes in ACT
"Psychological flexibility is the ability to feel and think with openness, to attend voluntarily to your experience of the present moment, and to move your life in directions that are important to you, building habits that allow you to live life in accordance with your values and aspirations. It's learning not to turn away from what is painful, instead turning toward your suffering in order to live a life full of meaning and purpose." - Steven C. Hayes, A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters
- Harris, R. (2008). The happiness trap: How to stop struggling and start living. Trumpeter Books.
- Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (2009). Acceptance and commitment therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Effectiveness. Research shows that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for issues related to mental health.
- Accessible. Accommodates those living in rural or remote areas, people living with disabilities that prevent them from leaving the home, and eliminates transportation barriers.
- Convenience. No need to schedule time for a commute.
- Cost Effective. Eliminates cost of parking and transportation.
- Coverage. Some insurance companies may not cover it. We encourage you to check with yours.
- Confidentiality and Privacy. Although we use encrypted, HIPAA-compliant software and abide by telehealth guidelines, communicating over the Internet entails a greater risk for security breach compared to in-person. It also means possible Internet connectivity issues.
- Distractions. Possibilities for disruption depending on your living circumstances and others in the home.
- Trust and Body Language. Some people may prefer viewing the entire body language of their therapist for more effective communication.
- Severe mental health or psychiatric concerns. A more appropriate and accommodating option for people that may need crisis intervention that is better supported with in-person care.
- Participation. It is an opportunity to engage in an activity outside of your home.
- Time consuming. Ensuring commute time may be challenging for busy schedules.
- Expenses. Possible parking and transportation fees.
All virtual sessions are conducted using secure, HIPAA-compliant software. Research has shown that psychotherapy offered through telehealth is an effective solution for mental health treatment. The efficacy of either option depends on individual preference and comfort level.