ACT Therapy

“People suffer. It’s not just that they have pain—suffering is much more than that. Human beings struggle with the forms of psychological pain they have: their difficult emotions and thoughts, their unpleasant memories, and their unwanted urges and sensations. They think about them, worry about them, resent them, anticipate and dread them. At the same time, human beings demonstrate enormous courage, deep compassion, and a remarkable ability to move ahead even with the most difficult personal histories. Knowing they can be hurt, humans still love others. Knowing they will die, humans still care about the future. Facing the draw of meaninglessness, humans still embrace ideals. At times, humans are fully alive, present, and committed. This book is about how to move from suffering to engagement with life. Rather than waiting to win the internal struggle with your own self so that your life can begin, this book is about living now and living fully—with (not in spite of) your past, with your memories, with your fears, and with your sadness. ACT: WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT CAN HELP YOU This book is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT. (“ ACT” is spoken as a single word, not as separate separate initials.) This is a new, scientifically based psychotherapeutic modality that is part of what is being called the “third wave” in behavioral and cognitive therapy (Hayes 2004). ACT is based on Relational Frame Theory (RFT): a basic research program on how the human mind works (Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, and Roche 2001). This research suggests that many of the tools we use to solve problems lead us into the traps that create suffering. To put it bluntly, human beings are playing a rigged game in which the human mind itself, a wonderful tool for mastering the environment, has been turned on its host. Perhaps you’ve noticed that some of your most difficult problems have paradoxically become more entrenched and unmanageable, even as you’ve implemented ideas about how to solve them. This is not an illusion. This results from your own logical mind being asked to do what it was never designed to do. Suffering is one result.


Here’s a sample of some of the unconventional concepts you will be asked to consider: Psychological pain is normal, it is important, and everyone has it. You cannot deliberately get rid of your psychological pain, although you can take steps to avoid increasing it artificially. Pain and suffering are two different states of being. You don’t have to identify with your suffering. Accepting your pain is a step toward ridding yourself of your suffering. You can live a life you value, beginning right now, but to do that you will have to learn how to get out of your mind and into your life. Ultimately, what ACT asks of you is a fundamental change in perspective: a shift in the way you deal with your personal experience. We can’t promise that this will quickly change what your depression, anger, anxiety, stress, or low self-esteem looks like, at least, not anytime soon. We can, however, say that our research has demonstrated that the role of these problems as barriers to living can be changed, and sometimes changed quite rapidly. ACT methods provide new ways to approach difficult psychological issues. These new approaches can change the actual substance of your psychological problems and the impact they have on your life.”


Hayes, Steven C

Get out of your mind and into your life: the new acceptance and commitment therapy/ Steven Hayes and Spencer Smith