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On Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Let’s begin with a comparison of three mainstream psychological treatments or psychotherapies. They significantly differ from each other, yet each has specific advantages and intended use modality.  These are:

Psychoanalysis: Built on the work of Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis is still based on how many contemporary psychologists understand the human mind.  As a treatment it includes the identification and resolution of deeply rooted sub and unconscious thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This remains among the most popular of therapies used by clinicians today. Based on the union of behavioral therapy and cognitive psychology the goal of CBT is to change maladaptive behavior that could be altered using rational thought. Here, the clinical focus is on changing behavior by linking cognitive activity to behavior.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT):  First introduced in the late 1980’s by Steven C. Hayes, PhD of the University of Nevada, ACT is now an accepted treatment worldwide.  Upon first look ACT and CBT may seem similar, but there are several significant distinctions.

Psychoanalysis – WHAT are the problems/issues? CBT – Where are these issues? (mind/body/spirit?) ACT- WHY is there a problem?
From infancy forward the human must meet certain stage related criteria. A malfunction occurs when self-analysis cannot change the mind. Yet, a problem  cannot be altered or changed until it is identified. It is in the identification of a problem that change can begin. In order for a client to change, the cognitive therapist focuses on problems the therapist believes are caused by irrational thinking or faulty perceptions. A cognitive/behaviorist therapist works with a client to change thought patterns and behaviors. The goal of the ACT therapist is to assist the client in understanding why there is a problem. That WHY relates to the inflexibility and definitions given to certain situations by the client. By understanding the roots of the problem, the client is empowered to change his behavior.
Approach to Treatment
Usually involves a long term exploration of client’s personal history directed toward  getting  the client fully involved in the psychoanalytical treatment. CBT is often called “brief psychotherapy”, it mainly focuses on present and the goal of CBT is helping the client cognitively understand their behaviors. The core of ACT treatment is to accept what is in your life, being attentive of the valued choices you have available, and then committing yourself to do what is right or valued.