ACT Therapy: The Theory Behind Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

ACT Therapy
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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfully-oriented behavioral therapy that uses an eclectic and humanistic approach to help people fight their demons.

It originally developed within the concept of functional contextualism in Relational Frame Theory (RFT), and slowly grew to provide wholesome benefits to individuals in all walks of life.

Unlike Western psychology that primarily operates on the concept of healthy normality, ACT accepts the so-called ‘abnormality’ as part of the human psyche and lays more emphasis on change through acceptance.

The myriad of ACT techniques and interventions develop ‘psychological flexibility’ or ‘mental plasticity’ resulting in positive actions and life choices.

ACT theorists pointed out that most human struggles are the result of four factors. They called these the ‘F-E-A-R’ factors, which is an acronym for:

F – Fusion of thoughts.

E – Evaluation of experiences.

A – Avoidance of thoughts and actions.

R – Reasoning.

By addressing these issues, ACT helps in reconstructing the ways we think.

In this article, we will try to gain a deep understanding of the core concepts of ACT, how it works, and what interventions contribute to its usefulness.

The activities and exercises you find below can be a practical guide and your starting point to uncovering the benefits of ACT for a healthier, happier, and utterly aware life.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free. These science-based, comprehensive exercises will not only help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life, but will also give you the tools to enhance the mindfulness of your clients, students, or employees.

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that is tied in complete psychological flexibility and adjustment. The name itself suggests that there are two essential counterparts of ACT:

  • Acceptance – of miseries, failures, and ailments.
  • Commitment – to changing for the better and following the right chain of actions.

In its most basic form, ACT helps people accept their difficulties and move on, leaving the negativities behind. Many psychologists believe that ACT is entwined with mindfulness and cognitive restructuring, considering the way it allows us to develop positive thoughts and stick to goal-oriented actions.

Steven Hayes (2004) was the proponent of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. He initially called it ‘comprehensive distancing’ because ACT helped people get rid of the thoughts that pulled them back.

The principal goal of ACT is to optimize our inner potential. It teaches the necessary psychological skills that can help us overcome our painful thoughts and emotions, and also lets us gain meaningful insight into what truly matters to us. ACT is goal-oriented, solution-focused, and follows a systematic step-by-step approach in helping clients reach their target in life.


Who Can Benefit From ACT?

Owing to its humanitarian approach, ACT can help people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether used alone or in combination with other forms of psychotherapy, ACT works exceptionally well for:

  • People who are suffering from depression, melancholy, or other mood disorders (Hayes, Wilson, Gifford, Follette, & Strosahl, 1996).
  • People who have recently experienced a personal failure such as losing a job, going bankrupt, losing a loved one, divorce, etc.
  • Psychotic patients with problems such as hallucinations, affective impairment, and severe melancholia (Gaudiano & Herbert, 2006).
  • Individuals with self-doubt and low self-esteem.
  • People experiencing social phobia, obsessions, communication barriers, destructive self-thoughts, and limiting beliefs (Twohig, Hayes, & Masuda, 2006).
  • Professionals who are looking for a shift of mindset for increasing their productivity at work.
  • Couples who are struggling to regain the balance in their marital life (Jacobson & Christensen, 1996).


A Look at the Theory and Core Processes

ACT operates on a theoretical framework that addresses basic human needs of happiness and pleasure. The tenets of ACT theory disowns any cognitive bias that could create space for discrimination or reservation. Letting individuals accept their flawed entities and at the same time training them to outgrow the unwanted feelings, is the main idea of ACT practices.

The core concept of ACT is to promote ‘psychological flexibility,’ and it does so by following six major principles or core processes. These processes are interconnected and often overlapping with each other. Together they aim to increase mental flexibility in given capacities and make us more aware of ourselves and others (Harris, 2006).


The 6 Core Processes of ACT

1. Acceptance

Acceptance, as opposed to avoidance, involves full recognition and awareness of our feelings, without trying to change them. For example, a person with obsessive thoughts learns to accept them as things that exist in his mind, but are unreasonable and painful.

Instead of trying to control or forcefully change our thoughts, ACT allows us to accept them in the first place and consciously replace the painful feelings with positive and uplifting ones.

2. Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion alters the way our thoughts affect us. By using this component, ACT reduces the impact of undesirable and limiting beliefs that cause stress. For example, ACT facilitators may encourage their clients to practice methods like speaking out thoughts loudly, naming them, and labeling them until it seems to be ineffective.

The theory of ACT believes that rather than changing what we think, it is more natural and more effective to change the way we feel about what we believe.

3. Mindfulness

Acceptance, which is the basis of ACT, lies in being present in ‘now’ and being alert to what is happening at the moment.

The goal of ACT is to promote mindful awareness in individuals by making their thoughts and actions more consistent and aligned with the present.

4. Self as context, concept, and process

ACT sees the self from three dimensions:

  • Self as context – which is a relational frame of ‘I vs. You,’ ‘Now vs. Then,’ ‘My vs. Their’, etc..
  • Self as a concept – which has an existential frame and deep-rooted beliefs of ‘who I am,’ ‘what I think,’ ‘what I feel’, etc..
  • Self as a process – which has a time frame and includes ideas about present, past, and future.

Theorists of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy suggested that creating a delicate balance between all the aspects of self could be a quick fix to many mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, and phobia.

When we are aware of our experiences and can look at them from an objective viewpoint, we can handle the flow of emotions with more efficacy.

5. Values

A crucial component of ACT is personal values and judgment. The therapy incorporates a variety of practices and self-help tools that allow individuals to choose their life goals while understanding the underlying value systems that guide their choices.

6. Committed actions

Much like the traditional behavioral therapies, ACT has a component of acquiring desirable traits, skills, and knowledge. It emphasizes consistent and goal-oriented behavior.

The methods and practices of ACT aim to change maladaptive behavior patterns that create psychological barriers. The interventions focus on training participants to consistently follow the actions that enhance feelings of positivity (Hayes, Pistorello, & Levin, 2012).


Techniques and Skills Used in ACT

The ACT applies to a broad range of life difficulties and psychological anomalies. Studies suggest that acceptance and commitment therapy can be a permanent heal for problems like chronic pain, epilepsy, manic psychosis, depression, and several forms of anxiety disorders.

ACT primarily centers around what we want from life. It follows a collaborative process where the therapist and the client contribute equally to framing short-term and long-term goals and planning their actions likewise. Techniques and skills popularly used in ACT include:

  • Metaphors and paradoxes.
  • Group activities.
  • Awareness exercises.
  • Mindfulness-based activities.
  • Motivational adjuncts.
  • Value assessments.

A variety of techniques addressing each of the six significant components of ACT is what marks for its effectiveness (Hayes, Pankey, Gifford, Batten, & Quinones, 2005).

Some of the unique interventions ACT uses are:


Creative Hopelessness Interventions

Creative hopelessness techniques help clients rule out the areas they want to improve and make action plans that could help them in achieving their goals.

These interventions, also known as ‘Facing the current situation’ methods include parts of mindfulness, self-awareness, and insightful learning. The skills are considered creative as they allow individuals to try something they have never done before.


Acceptance strategies

Acceptance skills can be cultivated through conversations, role modeling, situational plays, or specific exercises and ACT worksheets. The whole idea of acceptance techniques is to ‘unhook’ individuals and let them realize that all thoughts need not turn into actions, especially if they bring pain and stress.

Acceptance strategies help participants discriminate between productive and unproductive thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns.



Deliteralization is tied in with cognitive defusion and allows us to redefine our thinking and feeling processes.

Cognitive defusion strategies demonstrate how we can alter the way we perceive negativity and help us overcome them without necessarily obliterating or denying their presence (Blackledge, 2007).


What are ACT Therapy Metaphors?

Proponents of the ACT suggested that human minds ‘prefer’ learning through examples, which is why metaphors have become an essential part of ACT for clients of all ages and backgrounds.

ACT metaphors are often mindfulness-based; they help individuals get a firm hold of their current situations and choose their actions accordingly. They broaden perspective and provide a base for emotional management and effective self-expression.

Some of the ACT metaphors, as suggested by Steven Hayes, are:



What we resist, persist” – is the main idea that this metaphor promotes. The therapist guides the individual to imagine that he has fallen into quicksand and is struggling to get out of it.

He suggests that by trying to get out of it forcefully, he may get deeper into the pit. The illustrative example of quicksand allows him to understand that sometimes letting go might help in getting rid of unwanted thoughts.

Simply by not putting too much effort to control our thoughts, if we try to loosen the mind and let it free, we can overcome the shackles with more ease.


Passengers on a bus

Participants in this metaphor imagine themselves as the driver of a bus and take their negative and toxic thoughts to be irritable passengers riding the bus.

The therapist then asks the client how he would drive the bus, which is full of cranky and uncooperative individuals. Finding the answer to this situation, as the theorists believe, encourages them to change the way they look at stress and negativities and eventually come up with better coping strategies spontaneously.


Thought Train

In this metaphor, clients imagine that they are watching a train passing by, and each carriage of the train has a label of a negative thought or worry that the person is currently facing.

The idea here is to help them realize that they should look ‘at’ the problem objectively like they see a moving train from a distance.


Leaves on a stream

Individuals attending this ACT metaphor imagine themselves sitting by a green stream and letting their thoughts float away with the leaves.

Using guided imagery and gentle instructions, the therapist tells them to visualize their negative thoughts fading away on the leaves and moving far away from their lives.

This brings a sense of calm and self-mastery in the individuals and helps them defuse their cognitive barriers effectively.


Beach Ball

Beach ball works great for building acceptance and reality-orientation. In this metaphor, individuals imagine the stressful thoughts to be a beach ball that they try to push down into the water.

No matter how hard they try, the ball pops us as soon as they stop pushing. Similarly, by running away from what is bothering us, we can only suppress the feelings temporarily.

Unless we accept their existence and work on uprooting them from the very core, we cannot get the mental peace that we are seeking.


Applying ACT in Group Therapy

For many people, group therapy works better than an individual therapy session. As group sessions are cost-effective, less time-consuming, and easy to administer, they can blend with any professional or personal setting.

With equal importance to mindfulness, self-awareness, emotional regulation, and value enhancement, ACT practices gained immense popularity as a group intervention for promoting mental health and wellbeing at all levels. ACT interventions in group practices foster accountability among employees and allow them to take charge of their lives.

Group interventions in ACT create space for emotional catharsis and support. Listening to others and learning from different viewpoints give clients a better understanding of their problems. Psychologists believe that when we commit to some action in public, we are more likely to stick to it, rather than when we commit to some work in isolation (Gaudiano, 2009).


Benefits of ACT in a Group Context

Group rules and group conformity

Most group sessions in ACT begin with a clear explanation of the norms. Whether participants undergo a talk therapy, mindful meditation, or group games and metaphors, they have a clear understanding of what they are expected to do as part of the team and how their performance would affect others in their group.

Urging individuals to follow the group rules make them more flexible and open to suggestions, ultimately helping increase psychological flexibility, which is one of the ultimate goals of ACT.


A structured and solution-focused format

Usually, in a professional setup, where a large number of individuals attend to the group therapy, there is no space for open-ended techniques that might be hard to assess.

Most group therapy interventions follow a logical and step-by-step format, with all questions and exercises predefined, to save time and increase the likelihood of getting positive responses.

The systematic approach of group ACT is one reason why it is valid for such a significant variation of the population across cultures and backgrounds.


Wider perception

Experiential exercises such as situational role-playing or guided imagery help individuals understand how others see and react to the same situation in a wholly different way. The open discussion builds empathy and creates openness in them.


Can ACT Benefit Those With Anxiety and Depression?

The ACT is also referred to as ‘third wave’ therapy or ‘new wave’ therapy, owing to its modern and eclectic approach. The first wave and second wave therapies were mostly dependent on classical learning theories and information processing models.

The third wave treatment lines, such as ACT and DBT, combine behavioral and cognitive principles in a way that reduce symptoms and at the same time, offer a permanent solution.

Depression and anxiety change the way we think and feel about ourselves. It impairs judgment and cognition to the extent that we have thought blocks. By reinforcing mindfulness and self-awareness, ACT interventions rebuild self-perception.

Much like traditional CBT techniques, ACT uses cognitive and behavioral measures to change the way we look at adversities. Studies have shown that ACT, both as primary and secondary lines of therapy, works well for uplifting mood and self-worth.

Participants of ACT group interventions showed a marked reduction in anxiety symptoms and unwanted mood swings.

The mindfulness part of ACT helps in overcoming the negative self-doubts and beliefs that come with depression. As a result, clients are more proactive to bring about the desired changes and recover sooner from their apathetic state (Hayes, 2005).


ACT Therapy for OCD

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is by and large a top-down approach that targets thought process, affective components, and behavior management at all levels.

For Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), an anxiety condition with repeated irrational thoughts and actions, ACT follows a natural and meaningful approach to defuse the negative thoughts and behavior patterns.

The technique is called the Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a strategy that introduces the client to the anxiety-provoking stimulus and let them realize the unreasonableness of their obsessive ruminations.

ERP is also an aspect of cognitive defusion but is more directed toward specific obsessions and compulsive acts (Rasmussen & Eisen, 1992).

ACT interventions for treating OCD also involve metaphors and group activities to let clients look into the repeated thoughts from a different point of view and choose actions that restore their mental peace and reduce the restlessness.

Studies have shown that ACT helps treat obsessions like picking, hoarding, and repeated hand-washing (Twohig & Woods, 2004). It helps fight this debilitating disorder by creating a harmonious relationship with the innermost feelings and helps avoid the obsessions by building a secure connection to the reality (Hayes et al., 1996).


Using ACT for Trauma

TACT or Trauma-focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a specialized part of the therapy dedicated to helping people overcome severe trauma and posttraumatic mental disorders. It is usually a long intervention that lasts for a few weeks and follows acceptance and mindful awareness approach for healing.

Clinical case studies on victims of sexual assault and violence indicated that when TACT fuses with traditional ACT interventions, participants find it easier to open up about their struggle and share their stories with others in the group or with the therapist.

The goal of ACT is to help people let go of the tension that they have been holding in for so long and look into life from a whole new perspective. ACT techniques for trauma management include:

  • Metaphors and icebreakers.
  • Group discussions where each member is encouraged to share his story and others listen to it nonjudgmentally.
  • Flashback and reminiscence therapy for extreme cases of trauma-induced depression and stress disorder.
  • Role-playing and role reversals between client-therapist or other members in a group session.


A Look at the Work of Dr. Russ Harris

Dr. Russell Harris, a renowned author and proclaimed therapist, did extensive research on how ACT can change the way we think, feel, and behave.

In his bestselling book “The Happiness Trap” Dr. Harris (2011) put forward some groundbreaking research on the effectiveness of ACT as a positive mental health intervention.

Since 2005, Dr. Russ has been successfully coaching teachers, counselors, doctors, and psychologists on how to use ACT for different conditions.

His ACT-based books, for example, ‘The Reality Slap,’ ‘The Confidence Gap,’ and ‘ACT with love’ gained immense popularity across the globe and therapists of different specializations use his findings.

Dr. Harris’ works on ACT emphasizes three main aspects:

  • Seeing our thoughts and feelings ‘as they are.’
  • Avoiding the urge to control our thoughts and actions.
  • Consistently acting on values with a close connection to the present.

Dr. Russell Harris clarified that no matter what kind of problem we are facing if we can successfully follow the three aspects of ACT, we are sure to get results soon enough.

His workshops, training programs, and online resources are full of practical tools and tips for successfully implementing ACT and enjoying its benefits for a lifetime.


Steven Haye’s Work on the Topic

Many psychologists call Steven C. Hayes, the founder of ACT. He is a clinical psychologist, a doctorate scholar, and a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada.

Hayes is well-known for his works on relational frame theory, which later laid the groundwork for the ACT and allied therapies.

A crucial contribution of Dr. Steve Hayes was that he could successfully shift the focus of psychotherapy from treating what is ‘sub-normal’ to promoting what is ‘normal’.

Hayes believed that if therapists could spend more time to formulate strategies for reminding clients of their virtues and skills, the results would be more positive and surely long-lasting.

He suggested that once we start focusing on what we have, we gain the motivation for self-improvement. The more we think of possible ways to better ourselves, the farther we would move from negativities and stress.

Hayes’ main idea was to promote ACT as a solution-focused approach that would uplift individuals and free them from thought barriers, which is why he emphasized on incorporating mindfulness into ACT along with other cognitive practices.


3 Exercises, Activities, and Interventions

ACT interventions and activities help in:

  • Building self-awareness.
  • Creating self-control and self-acceptance.
  • Boosting sensitivity to emotions of the self and others.
  • Learning mindfulness skills.

Supporting each other by showcasing the desired behavior patterns and sticking to them throughout the training.

There is a vast variety of ACT interventions and techniques psychotherapists use today, each having their unique benefits that can help individuals fight issues like depression, stress, inattention, and anxiety. Here are some of the favorite ACT exercises that are useful for regaining the lost meaning and zeal in life (Harris, 2007).


1. Self as context exercises

Dr. Russ Harris created a compilation of ACT exercises in one of his publications in 2007. The self-as-context practice was an integral part of his manual. The activity consists of three sets of questions, the answers to which reflect the different aspects of self-context.

Section A
The critical question of this part is ‘Who are you?’ The therapist asks this question repeatedly to the participant. Initially, the individual attempts to answer descriptively by talking about his professional identity, personal details, etc.; the therapist listens to the answers and repeats the same question. This continues until the participant understands that all the self-descriptions he gave so far is meaningless. His real identity lies in the realization of his ‘existence’ before anything else.
Section B
This phase is tied in with mindful awareness. The therapist or test administrator prompts the individual to notice:

  • His feet touching the ground.
  • His eyes seeing the therapist sitting in front.
  • His breath flowing in and out.
  • The thoughts passing through his mind at the moment.
  • The smell of the room as he senses it.
Section C
At this final stage of the exercise, the therapist guides his client to master the art of ‘letting go.’ He instructs the individual to take a moment and notice himself as a professional, as a sufferer, and also imagine his ideal self. Then, he gently guides the client into thinking that he is letting all these selves walk away and try not to control them in any way. The feeling of ‘letting go’ brings a sense of peace and transcendence, which in turn cultivates unconditional self-acceptance.


2. OCD exercise

We know how ACT interventions help people with obsessive and compulsive disorders. The OCD exercise in the ACT is combined with response prevention techniques.

During the practice, the therapist helps the client to imagine obsessive thoughts as waves that rise and fall. Throughout the training, the participants learn how not to act on the impulses.

The method shows them that by letting the urges flow and dissipate, they can study the thoughts objectively and realize how extremely harmful they can be.

Dr. Harris had coined this exercise initially for treating anxiety disorder, but the practice proved to be useful for other problems as well, including PTSD, and depression.


3. Values exercise

The value exercise, also known as ‘Clarifying your values’ technique is an introspective ACT intervention, suitable for group administration or as a one-on-one practice.

The method is systematic and includes four steps:

  • Step 1 – Listing all the values in each of the ten life categories.
  • Step 2 – Scoring each value in the third column of the table, on a scale of 1-10, based on how important it is to the respondent (where 1 implies ‘not important’ and 10 would suggest ‘very important’).
  • Step 3 – Scoring each value in the fourth column of the table, based on the degree to which the respondent applies them in their present lifestyle (where 1 implies ‘not at all,’ and 10 would imply ‘follow them fully’).
  • Step 4 – At the final stage of the exercise, the therapist urges the participant to question himself about what his scores imply and how they reflect the client’s value systems.

The exercise table is illustrated below.

Life Areas Values
(List all values here)
How Important they are to me
(1- not at all important, 10 – very important)
How much I apply them in my current life
(1 – not at all, 10 – follow them fully)
Personal Growth
Community and welfare
Family Life
Professional Life
Social Life


3 Useful ACT Worksheets (Incl. PDF) and 3 Workbooks

1. Problem Dissection Worksheet

This exercise starts with making a list of all the life situations that we think are responsible for our unhappiness. The worksheet aims to lay open the four primary elements that contribute to any significant life difficulty.

Whether we are distressed due to a physical illness, a mental condition, or a personal loss, it is usually these four aspects that make us unhappy.

By disjoining them and looking at each element objectively, we can gather valuable information about the best ways to deal with them. The worksheet is shown below.

The instructions are clear, and there are no right and wrong answers in it (Forsyth & Eifert, 2016).

Instructions: Here are the four life areas disturbed by toxic events/people/circumstances. Read them and try to estimate all the possible thoughts, feelings, actions, and behavior that you experience or have experienced in the past. After completing the worksheet, look at all your answers and see what you can understand about the impact of problems in your life. Do you think there is a way you could change the effect of each of these aspects?
Thought Mesh
(List all the negative thoughts, worries, fears, self-doubts, and self-criticisms that push you down).
Taxing actions
(What are your current actions that make you feel worse and are harmful for your future?)
Emotional Struggle
(How do you feel about these troubles? Make a list of all the emotions you can name here)
Challenging Behaviours
(List all the events/people/situations that you have avoided or quit due to these unpleasant ruminations)


2. Problems and Values Worksheet

The ultimate goal of ACT is to increase awareness about happiness and how to attain it. The Problems and Values worksheet is an enriching journal that the therapist often uses in-between sessions to mark progress and drive clients to enhanced self-understanding.

The worksheet is simple and is divided into four parts, as shown below. You can learn more about this activity and other ACT exercises by Dr. Harris.

Sufferings Solution
Problematic Thoughts Problematic Actions Values – what matters to you in the long-run? Goals – how do you plan to restore peace?













3. Life Enhancement Worksheet

The Life Enhancement Worksheet was a part of an ACT workshop conducted by John Forsyth and Jamie Forsyth at the University of Albany.

Out of several other useful exercises in the program, this worksheet is noteworthy to mention owing to how beautifully it incorporated mindfulness into an objective form.

Here is a summary of the exercise. You can also follow the link to know more about it.

Select any sensation/s you just experienced:
(Breathlessness, fast heartbeat, dizziness, sweating, choking, nausea, heat flush, tingling)



Choose the emotion that best describes your feeling listed above:
(Fear, sadness, worry, others)



Rate the intensity of the emotion you felt:
(1- weak, 8 – very intense)
Where were you when you experienced the sensations?
What were you doing when you felt the sensations?
Did you do anything to manage these feelings?



1. The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety

Authors John Forsyth and George Eifert have brought together some of their most significant findings on mindfulness with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

The workbook is available in a paperback format and follows a step-by-step approach to help individuals overcome their fears, self-doubts, and get started on a journey of fulfillment and complete self-acceptance.

The work was highly appreciated by scholars and experts of this field and continues to be one of the most compelling reads for professionals who want to upgrade themselves for a better living.


2. The ACT Deck

The ACT Deck is a compilation of 55 practices that helps in building a stronger connection to the self. Authors Timothy Gordon and Jessica Borushok have concocted the exercises in fascinating card formats, which makes the piece user-friendly and universally applicable.


3. The Little ACT Workbook

Dr. Michael Sinclair and Dr. Matthew Beadman, authors of The Little ACT Workbook, have come up with some great handy tips and exercises on managing stress and negative emotions with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

With a robust scientific framework and lots of practical examples, this workbook can be a great self-help tool or a therapeutic adjunct for cultivating resilience and meaningfulness into our lives.


Training Options and Certification Courses (Inc. Online Options)

1. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Courses by Dr. Russ Harris

Dr. Russ Harris has developed a series of ACT courses for various target groups. In his website, we can find ACT courses for beginners, adolescents, and professionals.

His classes also cover specific areas of mental health such as depression, anxiety, and trauma, that ACT can heal. The course structures are friendly and flexible to accommodate our daily schedules.

You can learn more about these courses and explore the enrolment options from the link above.


2. ACT Intensive Online Course

The Intensive ACT Online Course of Dr. Steven Hayes and Daniel Moran follows a systematic approach to train clinically depressed and anxious clients to overcome their negative thoughts and emotions.

The course is divided into a few modules – each module addressing a specific plan to enhance acceptance and teach users how to act under stressful life circumstances mindfully.


3. ACT for Depression by Portland Psychotherapy

Portland Psychotherapy in Oregon is a dedicated organization for helping people achieve a happier life by embracing ACT.

Shadee Hardy, a certified clinical social worker, and a facilitator in Portland Psychotherapy have built adequate ACT training resources for depressed population, which is a most recommended online course for restoring balance in life.



Psychological flexibility is the ability to adapt to a situation with awareness, openness, focus, and to take effective actions guided by your values.

Dr. Russ Harris

Fulfillment does not mean our difficult emotions disappear; it means we change our relationship with them.

Dr. Russ Harris

If your mind says ‘I’ll fail!’, then simply acknowledge, ‘I am having the thought that I’ll fail.’

Dr. Russ Harris

Success in life means living by your values.

Russ Harris

It is not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.

Roy E. Disney

If you aren’t willing to have it, you will.

Steven Hayes

Let go of who you think you are supposed to be and be who you are.

Brene Brown

To find the good life, you must become yourself.

Dr. Bill Jackson

If we live a full life, we will feel the full range of emotions.

Happiness Trap by Dr. Harris

If you don’t decide where you’re going, you’ll end up wherever you are heading.

Dr. Russ Harris


A Take-Home Message

Training the mind to overlook negativities can be overwhelming, especially when we are distressed. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, by all means, opens to us the vastness of self-acceptance.

The principles and methods of ACT are simple reminders about how enriching life can be. Through meaningful self-acknowledgment and acceptance, ACT shows us how we can manage our emotions without actually trying to control them.

The mindfulness-based philanthropic approach of ACT accounts for its effectiveness and practicability and makes it a satisfying experience for both the therapist and the help seeker.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free.

If you wish to learn more, Mindfulness X© is our 8-module mindfulness training package for practitioners which contains all the materials you’ll need to not only enhance your mindfulness skills but also learn how to deliver a science-based mindfulness training to your clients, students, or employees.

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  • Forsyth, J. P., & Eifert, G. H. (2016). The mindfulness and acceptance workbook for anxiety: A guide to breaking free from anxiety, phobias, and worry using acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.
  • Gaudiano, B. A. (2009). Öst’s (2008) methodological comparison of clinical trials of acceptance and commitment therapy versus cognitive behavior therapy: Matching Apples with Oranges? Behaviour Research and Therapy47(12), 1066-1070.
  • Gaudiano, B. A., & Herbert, J. D. (2006). Acute treatment of inpatients with psychotic symptoms using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Pilot results. Behaviour Research and Therapy44(3), 415-437.
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  • Hayes, S. C., Pistorello, J., & Levin, M. E. (2012). Acceptance and commitment therapy as a unified model of behavior change. The Counseling Psychologist40(7), 976-1002.
  • Hayes, S. C., Wilson, K. G., Gifford, E. V., Follette, V. M., & Strosahl, K. (1996). Experiential avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology64(6), 1152-1168.
  • Jacobson, N. S., & Christensen, A. (1996). Integrative couple therapy: Promoting acceptance and change. WW Norton & Co.
  • Rasmussen, S. A., & Eisen, J. L. (1992). The epidemiology and clinical features of obsessive compulsive disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America.
  • Twohig, M. P., Hayes, S. C., & Masuda, A. (2006). Increasing willingness to experience obsessions: Acceptance and commitment therapy as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Behavior Therapy37(1), 3-13.
  • Twohig, M. P., & Woods, D. W. (2004). A preliminary investigation of acceptance and commitment therapy and habit reversal as a treatment for trichotillomania. Behavior Therapy35(4), 803-820.

About the Author

Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury holds a postgrad in clinical psychology and is a certified psychiatric counsellor. She specialized in optimizing mental health and is an experienced teacher and school counselor. She loves to help others through her work as a researcher, writer, and blogger and reach as many as possible.


  1. Roxie McNeilan

    I am a residential care worker in a children’s home. I have recently learned of ACT and have been devouring everything I can find on the subject. I am hoping to use ACT to help the adolescents I work with move past the trauma in their lives and live happier healthier lives. I love the metaphors in ACT they really help make complicated topics easier to understand.

  2. Gary B Stockman

    “At some point you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart, but not in your life.”

  3. Art Marr

    How a true radical behaviorism gives ACT the boot and makes RFT useless
    In 1994, the book ‘Learning and Complex Behavior’ was published by the Skinnerian behaviorists John Donahoe and David Palmer. An entire issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, the house organ of the Skinnerian movement, was devoted to its analysis and criticism, which was mainly laudatory. (link to one of these reviews from the JEAB is below) The book attempted to reconcile cognitive psychology with a Skinnerian radical behaviorism and mapped the Skinnerian data language or syntax to micro-behavioral events, in this case neural activity. Two major hypotheses were ventured by the authors. First, that classical and operant conditioning are not distinct processes, but can be derived from higher order models of brain functioning, or neural networks. Secondly, that reinforcement was the result of dopaminergic activity, which governs attentive arousal and neural activation. Both conclusions have been verified in modern bio- behaviorism (see below link to Berridge’s article).
    D and P’s interpretation of a radical behaviorism is precisely the same as that which governs science, which insists on strict mapping of data languages (syntax) to real world events (semantics). Think of modern physics or medicine, which precisely map their terminology to real empiric events. The lineage of learning theories, from Thorndike and Pavlov to Bolles and Berridge in modern times, are basically radical behaviorisms, although they usually do not use a Skinnerian data language.
    D and P’s analysis did neglect one fact, however. The dopaminergic processes for reinforcement they discussed are affective and are core elements of emotional states. Indeed, positive affective states, as governed by opioid and dopaminergic systems, can be mapped to abstract properties of response contingencies, and can be elicited and sustained without recourse to the linguistic psychodynamics which are core to modern psychotherapies and their rationales, including ACT. In other words, sustained positive affect, or ‘happiness’ is entirely dependent upon the abstract rather than normative properties of simple response contingencies, or how rather than what we think, and can be easily replicated in day to day life, a hypothesis that can be tested with easily falsifiable procedure.
    The irony of this is that the metaphors of ‘acceptance’ and ‘commitment’ do apply, though RFT and ACT don’t.
    I offer a more detailed theoretical explanation and procedure in pp. 47-52 of my open source book on the neuroscience of resting states, ‘The Book of Rest’, linked below.
    This interpretation is based on the work of the distinguished neuroscientist Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan, a leading theorist on emotion and incentive motivation, who was kind to vet the work for accuracy and endorse the finished manuscript.
    Berridge’s Site and article on history of reward learning
    Shull’s review of D and P and Tonneau’s article on why RFT is so darn incomprehensible

  4. Maddy Viernes

    I’m doing an internship with Veteran’s and this is a theory that is used in the interventions.

  5. Tarlan Ghiassi

    It’s so interesting all I was trying hard to put together in my work has, been combined in this approach. Would love to know more about it. Thanks, for the great article.

  6. John Paul Jones

    The use of metaphor in thought defussion is succinctly explained and highly useful in utilizing CR more effectively with learning theory. Certainly helpful in thinking outside the box of the usual CBT treatment protocols I’m required to work with.

  7. Adriana Pruneda

    I am a clinical psychologist and this is the first time I hear of this approach. Your article has made me want to learn more about it, because sometimes i find that CBT can be very cumbersome to some.

  8. Veronica Bruce

    This is what I have been looking for since age 8. I am 65 in September and finally found it.


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