In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of stress and negative thoughts. We often criticize ourselves for past decisions and worry about future ones. As a result, we never seem to be present in the moment.

If you’re familiar with mental health treatments, you may have heard the acronym ‘ACT’ before. But what does ACT stand for? Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based approach to psychotherapy that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Learn more about this therapeutic strategy, including its benefits, how it works and how to implement it in your life.

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy that combines mindfulness techniques with the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It was first developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Steven C. Hayes and has since been used to treat a wide range of mental health issues. So how does ACT work?

At the heart of ACT is the idea that it is counterproductive to try to reshape or control negative emotions and experiences. Ultimately, doing so only causes more emotional distress.

The goal of ACT, therefore, is twofold. The first goal of ACT is for people to learn to accept their thoughts and feelings, rather than trying to control or avoid them. The second goal is to help them focus on taking action towards their values and goals, leading to a more fulfilling life.

Overall, acceptance and commitment therapy enables people to cope with unhealthy thoughts better and find greater satisfaction in the present.

The 6 core principles of ACT: The Hexaflex Model

At the core of ACT is the Hexaflex model, which consists of six core processes that work together to help people live a more meaningful life. The six principles of ACT are:

  • Acceptance: Learning to accept and be present with difficult thoughts and feelings.
  • Cognitive Defusion: Recognizing that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts.
  • Contact with the Present Moment: Being fully present and engaged in the here and now.
  • Self-as-Context: Understanding that we are not defined by our thoughts and feelings.
  • Values: Understanding what is truly important to us.
  • Committed Action: Taking action towards our values and goals.

By working on the six processes of ACT, people become empowered to let go of unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. This, in turn, helps them focus on what truly matters to them.

Who benefits from ACT?

Acceptance and commitment therapy can be a beneficial outpatient treatment modality for people with a variety of mental health conditions and histories. The following are examples of people who can benefit from ACT.

Someone who has experienced a stressful/traumatic event

ACT has been found to be an effective treatment method for those who have recently experienced a stressful or traumatic event.

Sometimes, coping with the negative thoughts and feelings associated with the distressing event can be difficult. For example, unexpectedly losing a job can be a significant source of stress. Those in this situation may rethink the event over and over again, wondering if there were any signs they missed or anything they could have done to change the outcome. Agonizing over these details, however, only causes more negative emotions.

ACT can help those in these situations by teaching them how to accept the distressing event instead of trying to reshape or control it. By practicing mindfulness and acceptance, people can better learn how to cope with these emotions and memories. This enables them to be present in the moment and regain a sense of control and meaning in their lives.

Someone with a mood disorder

Acceptance and commitment therapy can also help those affected by mood disorders.

A mood disorder is a mental health condition characterized by persistent changes in mood that significantly affect a person’s emotional state and functioning. For example, someone with depression may find themselves overwhelmed with negative thoughts and feelings that drain them of all motivation and joy. They may struggle to accept these negative emotions and feel at a loss for how to cope with them.

Practicing ACT can help someone in this situation by paving a different path for dealing with negative emotions. Instead of resisting or pushing away these emotions, the person learns to accept them as valid experiences that do not define their self-worth.

In addition to this, ACT can help people with mood disorders regain motivation by working to identify what truly matters to them. By doing this, the person can set realistic expectations for how to incorporate what they care about into their daily life. For example, one person may set the goal of engaging in a creative hobby 10 minutes per day, while another decides to go for a walk at least once a day. In time, this builds a sense of accomplishment that can be beneficial for their mental health.

Someone with OCD

OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is a mental health condition characterized by recurring thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that the person feels driven to perform.

Oftentimes, the recurring thoughts and repetitive behaviors associated with OCD can create emotional distress. However, ACT can help accept unwanted thoughts without judgment and resistance. Doing this reduces the power of the OCD thoughts and compulsions, helping the person regain a sense of control.

Acceptance and commitment therapy can also help those with OCD recognize that their OCD-related thoughts do not necessarily reflect the reality of their situations. By using cognitive defusion techniques, ACT can help reframe their mindset to one focused on the present moment.

Someone with psychosis

Psychosis is a mental health condition characterized by a loss of contact with reality, resulting in hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking.

Although ACT cannot directly treat symptoms of psychosis, it can help those affected by it develop healthy coping mechanisms. For example, ACT can help someone with psychosis recognize that their delusions or hallucinations are not necessarily an accurate representation of reality. Through defusion techniques, people can learn to observe their thoughts as passing mental events without getting entangled or overwhelmed by them.

Furthermore, ACT can help those with psychosis symptoms accept their experiences without judging themselves. This can help them reduce feelings of distress and increase feelings of self-worth.

How to Incorporate ACT into Your Life

There are many ways to incorporate ACT into your daily life, whether you are struggling with a specific mental health issue or simply looking to live a more meaningful life. The following are a few examples to set you on the right path.

Attend an Outpatient Program That Offers ACT

Given the popularity of ACT, many outpatient programs often provide it as a treatment modality. In an outpatient program, a therapist creates a structured and individualized plan where patients can learn and practice mindfulness techniques. By participating in group therapy sessions and individual ACT counseling, patients gain a deeper understanding of ACT and develop the necessary skills to cope with challenging thoughts and emotions.

Additionally, the outpatient setting enables patients to continue their daily responsibilities while receiving care. This makes ACT even easier to integrate into your daily life.

Attend an ACT Workshop or Retreat

If you’re looking to dive deeper into ACT, consider attending a workshop or retreat. These events offer a more immersive experience and allow you to learn from experienced therapists and practitioners. You can find workshops and retreats in your area by searching online or through local therapy centers.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool for practicing mindful living and incorporating ACT into your life. By setting aside a few minutes each day to sit in silence and focus on your present, you can learn to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings. There are many guided meditations available online, making it easy to integrate ACT techniques into your everyday life.

Get The Help You Need, Now

Incorporating mindfulness techniques and focusing on taking action toward our values can help us let go of unhelpful thoughts and behaviors and focus on what truly matters to us. Whether you’re struggling with a specific mental health issue or simply looking to live a more mindful life, ACT can be a powerful tool that projects you toward a more fulfilling life.

Canyon Creek Behavioral Health’s outpatient partial hospitalization program for adults offers ACT as a treatment modality. Our outpatient program enables patients to continue their daily responsibilities while receiving care. Our program promotes healing, the development of healthy habits and the implementation of positive coping strategies in your daily routine.

Give us a call at 254-410-1819 or complete this form to get started on your mental health journey today.

If you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room.

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, call 988 or get to the nearest emergency room.


Canyon Creek Behavioral Health

Canyon Creek Behavioral Health is a facility that services the behavioral health needs of adults, adolescents and older adults. We provide inpatient and outpatient treatment, where we serve people from all backgrounds. Our team of highly qualified and skilled therapists are prepared to meet your individual needs. This includes treating those facing mental health issues and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression.

Here at Canyon Creek we believe it’s possible to live a life of stability and purpose. Some of our services include our adult inpatient program, adolescent inpatient services and more. Located in Temple, Texas, we’re committed to being an active member of the Temple community and improving its understanding of mental health.

To schedule a no-cost, confidential assessment, please give us a call at 254-410-1819 or fill out the form on our contact page here.