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What Are the Core Principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?

Many therapy modalities exist to help a person make long-term changes in their life. They can treat various mental illnesses and addictions. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an effective type of therapy that combines mindfulness and cognitive therapy. ACT can occur individually or in a group therapy setting. This therapy can help multiple diagnoses, both physical and mental, at once.

The 6 Core Principles of ACT

Everything with ACT functions on six core principles. Therapists will teach you these principles as well as exercises to achieve them. Let’s go over each principle in detail.

#1. Acceptance

When participating in ACT, you want to allow the negative emotions, thoughts, physical feelings, and impulses to exist within you. You shouldn’t attempt to fight or change them, but you also shouldn’t give them extra attention. Rather than trying to resist, which can increase distress, you should tolerate the negativity. Don’t let them stop you from doing things you like and enjoy.

#2. Cognitive Defusion in ACT

This principle involves separating thoughts from yourself. You reconceptualize your thoughts as a series of words that can be manipulated to cause less distress.

Many techniques exist to achieve this. You may visualize thoughts as clouds floating by. Also, you could state a thought out loud in different tones and pitches until it sounds funny. Moreover, you could visualize the words and change the font. Notably, none of these techniques attempt to change the thoughts; they only change your relationship with the thought.

#3. Being Present in the Moment

This technique is just another form of mindfulness. You use grounding exercises and breathing exercises to be present in the moment without judgment.

#4. Observing Yourself

Many times, we conflate our thoughts, emotions, and sensations with ourselves. In this principle, you are not the things you experience and feel. You are the person noticing those things. No matter how much they change, you will remain the unchanged observer. By separating yourself from these things, you can choose how to react to them based on your values.

#5. Values

Everyone has things they hold up as important, whether they’re aware of it or not. Often, our values are determined by the environment and society we were born into. We can choose our values, though. As such, this principle requires you to introspect on the things that matter to you — what you want to achieve and how you want to live your life.

#6. Committed Actions in ACT

The last principle, committed actions, takes all the other principles and combines them into actionable goals. Think to yourself, what area of your life would you like to change, and how does that align with your values? You create space between yourself and the thoughts that say you can’t do it. Accept that there will be challenges, but dedicate yourself to staying in the moment as you change. Then, you write out specific goals you want to accomplish.

If you’re struggling with mental illness and addiction, you might feel lost and overwhelmed. Many therapies exist to help you get on the path to healing. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is just one option that combines mindfulness with cognitive therapy. We offer multiple therapy options at The Guest House. Our individual and group therapies utilize traditional approaches. We also offer many holistic therapies to care for your overall wellness. With a combined approach, you can set yourself up to succeed in recovery. When you’re ready to change, call us at (855) 483-7800.