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How can Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) help us all to be more psychologically flexible?

In May I was lucky enough to attend training by Ray Owen, an internationally acclaimed trainer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

ACT is a very practical model. It takes the view that life will always have positive and more difficult times, and that aiming to live a life without any negative emotions is not feasible. Instead its aim is to develop a meaningful life in the face of difficulties if they cannot be changed (such as the loss of a loved one).

In ACT thoughts themselves are not viewed as the problem (as thoughts come and go all the time). The key thing is how we react to these thoughts e.g. giving up, getting tangled, dwelling, avoiding things, trying to solve things that cannot be solved. It views emotions as naturally fluctuating and contradicts the idea that we should be happy 100% or the time and that less than this means we are not healthy (see this video called the Struggle Switch for more information)

It is a great model for people who may feel lost or stuck or unfulfilled without a clear understanding why. It has also been found to be effective for children and adults experiencing anxiety, low mood, eating disorders, psychosis, grief, drug and alcohol use, stigma and discrimination.

How does it do this?

ACT supports people to:

  • Stop trying to avoid the thoughts, feelings, memories and physical sensations which cause them distress (as this keeps difficulties going in the long run)

  • Be better able to notice our thoughts and see that we are separate from them so they become less distressing in daily life and we are better able to make more informed choices and actions

  • Learn how to be in the present moment, not ruminating on the past or worrying or fantasising about the future

  • Identify the things that matter to us most (our ‘values) which may get lost along the way when we experience difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

  • Be aware of patterns of behaviour and thinking which pull us away from mindful, valued living (e.g. drinking, withdrawing socially)

  • Change the stories we tell about ourselves e.g. I am a failure, I should be stronger than this.

This increased ‘psychological flexibility’ opens the door to living a life which is more meaningful and includes relationships and activities which are valuable to us and have a sense of purpose.

If you are interested in learning more about ACT please contact us. 07880610449


The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris

The Reality Slap by Russ Harris

Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steve Hayes

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