What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy? (The Pros & Cons)

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Published Date|
November 28, 2023

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy? (The Pros & Cons)

You know the past is in the past, and you’re ready to move on.

But it’s harder than it sounds.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help you align with the present moment and start living life based on what really matters to you - but how do you know if it’s the best type of therapy for your needs?

Here at KMA Therapy, we’re here to help answer all the questions you have about therapy, including what type might be the best choice for you.

After reading this article, you’ll know what issues ACT can help with, how it works, and how to know if it’s the right choice for you.

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy designed to help you become more flexible in your thought patterns, allowing you to fully engage in the present moment.

Rather than getting trapped in your past behaviour patterns, ACT uses strategies like mindfulness to help you become more psychologically flexible.

What Issues can ACT Help With?

ACT is a flexible form of therapy that can help with a variety of challenges and issues.

ACT is often effective for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Stress at Work or Home

What Happens During ACT?

During ACT, your therapist will guide you through conversations and exercises to help you change your self-talk and behaviour.

There are a wide range of techniques that your therapist might use, but there are six core processes that you will go through during ACT.

The six processes of acceptance and commitment therapy are:

  • Values
  • Acceptance
  • Self as context
  • Committed action
  • Cognitive defusion
  • Contacting the present moment

Values are what you care about the most, and during ACT, you’ll examine which values are most important to you. Understanding your values will help you explore whether your current behaviours are reflecting the kind of life you want to live, and understand what you’d rather do differently.

Acceptance involves making peace with the things that you cannot change in your life. 

For example, you might have a past trauma that has been really difficult for you to understand. Acceptance means making peace with the fact that this happened and you can’t change it, while understanding that you can choose how you want to move forward.

Acceptance can also involve understanding that broader emotions, like sadness and grief, will always be part of life - but they don’t have to define your life.

Self as context explores the idea that you have the power to step back and objectively observe situations that you are a part of. You’re able to become mindful of what you’re feeling and thinking, and recognize thought patterns that you’re having.

Committed action is heavily linked to your values, meaning that you need to actually act on your values in order for them to have an influence on your life.

Cognitive defusion is a process where you learn to understand that your thoughts are just thoughts. While you can’t always control thoughts you have automatically, you can understand that they’re only thoughts, and you don’t need to be consumed by them.

Contacting the present moment helps you connect with your mind and body as they are in the present moment. While it’s easy to feel worried about the future or ruminate on the past, contacting the present moment allows you to put your energy toward what’s actually happening right now.

acceptance and commitment therapy pros cons

Pros of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can be a refreshing form of therapy that allows you to learn more about yourself and what you truly want out of life.

It’s an adaptable form of therapy that can help with a wide range of issues, including anxiety and depression.

ACT can be a great choice if:

  • You’re looking for a compassionate and empathetic therapeutic approach
  • You’ve felt stuck, limited, or dissatisfied with your life lately
  • You’re interested in exploring your values and behaviours

Cons of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

While ACT can help you make peace with past experiences and traumas, it doesn’t help you process them in the same in-depth way that other forms of therapy can.

You might still be in the process of exploring how your past experiences are shaping your present life, and alternative types of therapy can help you do this at a deeper level.

ACT might not be the right choice if:

  • You have experienced complex trauma
  • You want to talk about and process your past experiences at length
  • You’re in a situation that should be changed or you want to change (i.e. unhealthy or unsafe relationships)

Alternatives to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

After learning about the pros and cons of ACT, you might be interested in exploring some alternatives.

These forms of therapy can help you address trauma and explore past experiences that might still be influencing you.

  • Eye-Movement Desensitization Response (EMDR)
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Existential Therapy

Next Steps for Beginning Therapy

After reading this article, you know whether ACT could be a great choice for you and some alternatives to explore.

Here at KMA Therapy, we’re here to help you through every step of the therapy journey, including helping you learn what type of therapy could be the best fit for you.

Register today for more information or read our free Therapy 101 Guide for in-depth explanations.

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Author |
Emily Weatherhead
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