Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT for short, was developed in the 1980’s and focuses on accepting what is out of a person’s control and committing to an action that improves or enriches their life. The theory behind ACT focuses on accepting and experiencing painful emotions or psychological experiences because suppression of these feelings ultimately leads to more distress. The aim of ACT is to maximize a person’s potential for a meaningful and full life. ACT teaches psychological skills to cope with painful thoughts and feelings effectively- in such a way that they have much less influence and impact. ACT can also help you clarify what is important and meaningful to you. By taking steps to change our behavior, while at the same time, learning to accept our psychological experience, we can eventually change our attitudes and emotional state. ACT has been used effectively to help treat workplace stress, test anxiety, social anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even psychosis. It has also been used to treat medical conditions such as chronic pain, substance use, and diabetes.

There are six core processes in ACT:

  • Be psychologically present (focusing on the here and now)
  • Diffusion - Stepping back/detaching from unhelpful thoughts, worries, memories, allow them to come and go (as opposed to struggling or avoiding them).
  • Acceptance - Allow these thoughts/ feelings to come and go without draining you (be willing to experience difficult thoughts).
  • The observing self - Self as context. See yourself as unchanged by time and experiences.
  • Values clarification - Discover what is truly important to you.
  • Commitment - Take action to pursue the important things in your life.

Goals of ACT:

  • Develop psychological flexibility - The ability to embrace one’s thoughts and feelings as they are and shift attention towards chosen values and actions linked toward those values.
  • Reduce psychological symptoms
  • Increase work performance
  • Increase physical health
  • Increase Quality of Life!

One core process of ACT is value clarification. While some people find it simple to identify their values, many of us struggle to find purpose in our lives. One way to identify our values is to collect information using The Valued-Living Questionnaire. This brief questionnaire taps into 10 domains of life. You can rate the importance of the 10 domains in your life on a scale of 1-10.

The 10 domains are:

  • Family (other than parenting and intimate relationships)
  • Marriage/Couples/Intimate relations
  • Parenting
  • Friendship
  • Work
  • Education
  • Recreation
  • Spirituality
  • Citizenship
  • Physical Self-Care

You then use this rating scale to estimate how consistently you have lived in accord with those values over the past week (using the same 1-10 rating scale). This allows you to reflect on your values and provides a starting point for action. Overall, this tool can be a simple way to identify your values and be a driving force for setting a course to increase adherence to living by your values. This measure is brief, and research supports its strong reliability. The measure can be found online and is a free resource that can be used by anyone.

Please see below the link to find the Valid Living Questionnaire that you can use!

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