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What Is The Goal Of Acceptance And Commitment Therapy?

There are several types of psychotherapy, and one such type widely used today is acceptance and commitment therapy.


Therapy is essential in successfully treating and managing various mental health disorders. This is because although medications are used to manage symptoms of these disorders, it’s a therapy that bears the work of isolating and detecting possible psychological triggers for these conditions and helping patients develop effective coping strategies to live their best quality of life after treatment.

There are several different types of therapy, and each of these therapy types addresses different situations and is used to achieve different outcomes. One such therapy type widely used in modern medicine for improving patient treatment outcomes is acceptance and commitment therapy training (ACT).

What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), also known as acceptance therapy for short, is a form of psychotherapy that focuses primarily on using acceptance to deal with negative, unpleasant, and unwanted emotions, symptoms, thoughts, and situations. In addition, Acceptance therapy also helps to promote a more substantial commitment to positive and healthy exercises that support an individual’s ideals and objectives.1

The goal of acceptance and commitment therapy is to help patients advance towards valued behavior, that is, to help them accept their present-hour realities and work towards healing instead of simply ignoring those negative emotions. In acceptance and commitment therapy training, patients are encouraged to talk about uncomfortable emotions, taught to develop effective coping mechanisms, and helped to learn how to avoid circumstances and situations that trigger them.2

How Does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Work?

Understanding how mindfulness ACT works is crucial in making the most of this therapy approach. Mindfulness ACT is based on the theory that an increase in the ability of a person to “accept” unfavorable situational realities will result in the development of increased mental or psychological adaptability.

ACT has several advantages and may assist individuals in overcoming their tendency to routinely avoid emotions or thoughts instead of confronting them, an act that usually results in even more issues down the line. Instead, because ACT is based on the idea that actions change before thought patterns follow suit, these individuals are taught to observe these negative thoughts or emotions, accept the parts they have no control over, and then commit to taking steps to improve their lives and achieving the results they want.3

Techniques of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

There are six core acceptance and commitment therapy processes, and each of these techniques or “processes” are linked. Acceptance and commitment counseling therapists work with patients through all these steps to achieve the goal of acceptance and commitment therapy. These acceptance and commitment therapy techniques (ACT skills) will be detailed below.3


This is usually the first acceptance-based therapy skill learned. Acceptance in ACT is when patients learn to stop resisting the negative emotions they’re feeling and instead choose to “experience” and accept them for what they are.

Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion is the act of distancing yourself from your feelings and emotions. This acceptance-based therapy skill allows patients to perceive thoughts for what they are, helping them understand that their thoughts do not have any power over them.

Self as Context

Self as context ranks among the most important ACT skills. It involves helping patients learn that their thoughts of themselves are separate from their actions, so they learn to stop defining themselves by “thought absolutes.”

Being Present

The “Being Present” part of the ACT treatment plan helps patients focus on developing new behavioral adjustments geared towards changing the internal emotional environment. In this part of the ACT treatment plan, the individual remains focused on and aware of their internal environment. They use this to determine behavioral adjustments that need to be made to achieve their goals.


In this stage, the patient or individual defines what is of utmost importance to them, i.e., core beliefs, ideals, and objectives. These” values” help give them direction and a basis for making decisions when faced with challenging circumstances.


This involves the individuals or patients committing to actions in line with their identified values and objectives.

What is Unique to Act?

Several things make ACT stand out from other therapy approaches. These unique ACT features include:

Healthy Normality

One major way ACT differs from other treatments is that it does not operate under the premise of “healthy normality.” Foundationally, western psychology approaches are based on the idea that psychological distress is abnormal and that humans are naturally psychologically healthy.

ACT disagrees with this assessment because a look at historical and current societal realities points to the fact that psychological suffering co-exists with human development.4

Destructive Normality

According to ACT beliefs, the mind of a typical person is destructive and will eventually cause some measure of psychological anguish at some point in everyone.4

Experiential Avoidance

The foundation of ACT is that everyone experiences psychological distress due to human language. One way it does this is by preparing us for a confrontation with our ideas and emotions using a technique known as experiential avoidance. All too frequently, when we strive to escape or get rid of unpleasant intimate experiences, we only end up causing ourselves more pain.

For instance, almost every addiction case starts because of an effort to suppress or avoid negative emotions and thoughts, such as boredom, loneliness, worry, and sadness, instead of dealing with these feelings.4

Therapeutic Interventions

ACT employs a range of therapeutic techniques that are effective avoidance alternatives to help patients deal with unpleasant emotions or thoughts. Patients learn to use mindfulness to lessen the impact of these undesirables and get better results instead of suppression and avoidance.4

Confronting the Agenda

This phase involves using a technique akin to motivational interviewing to undercut the patient’s innate approach subtly and respectfully to emotional control.4

Control is the Problem, Not the Solution

In this phase, patients are made aware of the fact that their emotional coping mechanisms are largely to blame for their issues and that if they are obsessed with trying to control their emotions, they will likely remain caught in that cycle of pain and emotional damage.4

What Is the Goal of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

The goal of acceptance and commitment therapy activities can be divided into three different yet intertwined parts. They are:

  • Increase psychological flexibility
  • Ability to enter the present moment more fully
  • Change or persist in behavior when doing so serves valued ends

What ACT Can Help With

It is worthy of note that acceptance and commitment group therapy is currently recognized as an effective treatment for several different medical conditions. Here are some examples of conditions acceptance and commitment therapy exercises can help with:4

  • Anxiety (acceptance therapy for anxiety): Acceptance therapy for anxiety is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety identify and deal with episode triggers.
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Stress
  • Substance use
  • Psychosis

Structure of an ACT Therapy Session

Unlike several other forms of treatment, ACT sessions have no predetermined or rigid structure. However, most ACT treatments will walk you through certain stages throughout your acceptance and commitment therapy session plan. These structure stages include:

  • Building rapport
  • Deeper awareness
  • Core values
  • Actions
  • Commitment

Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

The benefits of acceptance and commitment therapy activities include the following:

  • Focuses On Enriching the Lives Of People, Regardless Of Symptoms
  • Helps Us Become More Flexible Psychologically
  • Acknowledges Negative Experiences Are A Part Of Life

Is ACT Therapy Effective?

Yes, it is! Studies have shown that ACT is highly effective in the treatment of a variety of mental disorders. For instance, a study indicated that ACT helped increase treatment efficacy for persons suffering from depression and anxiety by reducing the incidence and severity of symptoms. ACT has also proven effective treatment for people with chronic pain.

How to Find an ACT Therapist?

You could start by consulting and getting recommendations from your doctor. If you are currently seeing a therapist, you could ask them to recommend an ACT therapist for you as well. One other way to find an ACT therapist is to check your address book or do a Google search for therapists near you. Regardless of your method in looking for an ACT therapist, you must ensure your therapist is licensed to practice and is also experienced in ACT to ensure you can get the best from this treatment option.

Get Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at San Diego Detox

Are you looking to explore acceptance and commitment therapy? If you are, then San Diego Detox is the perfect place for you! At San Diego Detox, we have teams of licensed and vastly experienced ACT therapists, so you can rest assured you’re in good hands. We provide treatment services that are a perfect blend of comfort and efficacy, ensuring that our clients get the best possible treatment.5