Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Essay

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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy that is similar to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The theory that ACT is based on is the Relational Frame Theory, which launched out of cognitive therapy, supplying missing "steps" in Skinner's behaviorism by exploring more deeply the connections between language and thought. Essentially, ACT explores the idea that what and how a person thinks is highly impactful in that individual's daily life and functioning -- and especially in how that person copes with stress, etc. But whereas CBT focuses on altering the content of one's thoughts in order to move the individual towards the target behavior, ACT focuses on changing the function of thoughts so that they do not oppress the individual. ACT, in other words, focuses on the way in which a person interacts with the interior life.

Two articles that discuss ACT are "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Introduction" by Michael Twohig (2012) in Cognitive and Behavioral Practice and "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Model, processes and outcomes" by Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, Lillis et al. (2012) in Behavior Research and Therapy.

As Twohig (2012) notes, ACT targets six psychological processes for functional change within the therapy. These targets are "acceptance, defusion, being present, self as context, values and committed action" (Twohig, 2012, p. 499). By using a functionalist technique that focuses energy on these targets, ACT is able to assist the patient in accepting the part of the self that is problematic for the patient -- as opposed to attempting to eradicate it.
The technique involves showing the patient that he/she has an observant self that can accept the experiences of the self without being oppressed by them. This allows the patient to transition not to a more "in control" phase of being but rather to a more positive and accepting phase, in which commitment to a new goal with new values can be developed based on the willingness of the objective self to proceed along the lines of the target processes identified above. ACT also employs the mindfulness technique, which encourages the patient to be present, in the moment, aware of the reality of the self as a third-person observer might do. This facilitates a better functioning relationship between the self and the emotions/thoughts of the individual.

Hayes et al. (2012) indicate, however, that because the therapy is relatively new,….....

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Hayes, S., Luoma, J., Bond, F., Masuda, A., Lillis, J. et al. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Model, processes and outcomes. Behavior Research and Therapy, 44(1): 1-25.

Twohig, M. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Introduction. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 19(4): 499-507.
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