Intro to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Psychological Flexibility

A little over a year ago, I learned about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) from my mom, who found it to be a rather compelling approach in her animal-assisted therapy work.

Wikipedia’s definition of ACT is pretty straight-forward:

A form of counseling and a branch of clinical behavior analysis. It is an empirically-based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.

ACT promotes the development of a “psychological flexibility” mindset, consisting of 4 mindfulness principles (being present, acceptance, diffusion, self as context) + clear values + committed action.

Intrigued by the idea of incorporating mindfulness concepts into a more rigorous psychological approach, I’ve decided to read Russ Harris’

The Happiness Trap

It was a delightful read, providing an easy to read overview of the theoretical basis as ACT, as well as highly actionable protocols (exercises) that brought many of the principles to life in a very tangible way. You can find the deck that I’ve put together to summarize the key ideas, below:

Interestingly enough, a few months back I came across a somewhat similar framework, created by Vipassana teacher Michele McDonald. McDonald defines the qualities that define a moment of mindfulness using the acronym RAIN:

  • Recognition — What is really happening? (ACT: being present)
  • Acceptance — Can we accept that it’s happening? (ACT: acceptance)
  • Interest — Can we bring genuine interest to what is happening? (ACT: self as context)
  • Non-identification — Is this happening “to me”, or is it simply happening? (ACT: defusion)

A lack of mindfulness moment can be described using the acronym DROP: Distraction, Resistance, Obliviousness, Personification.

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Intro to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

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