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What is Acceptance Commitment Therapy?

Updated: Mar 7

This article is part of a series of blogs that are meant to highlight the different modalities of therapy our Psychotherapists at Your Story Counselling utilize, check out our other articles to learn more about the various therapeutic models we use!

What is Acceptance Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a therapeutic model that focuses on the process of change rather than the content of the change.

It is a humanistic approach that draws from the philosophies of existentialism and phenomenology, specifically, the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and Rollo May. The goal of ACT is to help you accept who you are, what has happened to you, what your past has been like, how your current life experience affects you, and how you can best move forward in your present life experience.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the importance of acceptance, commitment, values and mindfulness. The goal of this therapy is to teach people how to accept themselves and their lives as they are now, rather than how they wish things were or how others want them to be


Brief History of ACT

In order for change to happen, acceptance must first be established by acknowledging these emotions. This approach focuses on the acceptance of one's reality and the commitment to change. Acceptance doesn't mean that you have to tolerate an experience; it simply means we must come to terms with accepting it has happened.

Acceptance allows you to question how past experiences fit together and how they have built us to be who we are. this allows you to start finding the best ways to move through it. The theory of ACT states that our core beliefs are connected to our highest values, which are then connected to our behaviours. ACT encourages clients to identify their core beliefs and work toward changing them so they match their highest values, as well as reduce their habitual patterns of avoidance and reactivity.

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that has been shown to help people with depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems.

Brief History of ACT

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy was developed in the 1980s by Steven Hayes and Kelly Wilson. It is one of many so-called third-wave cognitive-behavioral therapies that focus on mindfulness instead of changing thought patterns. ACT has a long-standing reputation for being an effective therapy for those who have struggled with addiction, but research shows that ACT can be beneficial for many other mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, relationship problems etc.

In fact, ACT has been shown to be as effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in treating a variety of mental health concerns; however, ACT and CBT are quite different therapeutic models. Let's take a look at what makes this therapy unique.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps you accept the difficulties that come with life. ACT teaches you psychological skills to deal with painful thoughts and feelings effectively, so they have less influence over your behavior.

What does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) look like in therapy and how can ACT help you?

Throughout the course of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, you will learn skills for managing difficult emotions. You will also learn how to clarify your values — things like love, connection, joy, compassion — and make choices that align with them.

In therapy, You'll learn how to pay attention to what's happening in the present moment, instead of getting stuck in unhelpful thoughts about the past or future. Difficult feelings are seen as a normal part of life, so there's no need to try and avoid them or get rid of them. If you try to control or repress your feelings, it can experiencing them much more painful and worse. ACT focuses on helping you accept that some things are outside your control and find ways to live with this instead.

You'll be encouraged to take action that increases your quality of life, even if it means feeling anxious or sad at times. You’ll learn different techniques and coping skills for tolerating these emotions and you'll also be taught strategies for improving relationships with other people by learning to become more open and flexible with them.

What does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) look like in therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses mindfulness techniques to help you live in the present moment and accept difficult thoughts and feelings without judgment. It’s called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy because it requires you to accept painful thoughts, feelings, and sensations while committing to new actions.

When something triggers difficult emotions — like anxiety or anger — we often try to push those uncomfortable emotions away. This can make us feel even more disconnected from ourselves and our lives. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps you stop trying to change these negative thoughts and feelings. Instead, it encourages you to accept what is out of your control, commit to making positive changes, and take action toward your goals

Interested in learning more? Take a look at our team to see who offers ACT and/or book a free 15 minute consultation with one of our therapists now!

TLDR: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Facts

  • ACT helps to refocus your attention away from these negative thoughts and feelings. Instead of trying to cover up or push away these feelings, ACT helps you accept them as part of yourself.

  • ACT also helps people move towards their values – that is, what they believe is most important in their lives – in ways that will help them live more meaningful lives.

  • ACT is an approach that helps people learn to accept what is out of their personal control while committing to action that improves and enriches their lives. It is a type of psychotherapy based on modern behavioral psychology and the idea that human beings can choose value-based actions, even when feeling negative feelings or emotions.

  • ACT encourages people to recognize thoughts and feelings as they come up and allow them to be present without judgment or resistance. It also stresses the importance of identifying behaviors that support values, such as kindness and compassion, as opposed to habits that may bring short-term gratification but do not benefit a person in the long run, such as substance abuse.

  • ACT is unique in its focus on changing behavior rather than addressing underlying thought patterns or emotions. The goal is not to eliminate difficult emotions but to change the relationship a patient has with those feelings so they do not rule his or her life.

Interested in learning more? Take a look at our team to see who offers ACT and/or book a free 15 minute consultation with one of our therapists now!

Still, want more? Learn from the master himself:


Learn More about our Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Clinicians 

Dorothy Hsieh
Yukta Gupta

Amy Lee
Charmaine Tong

Zahra Eizadi
Lynn Qi

Robynson Paulwell
Andy Mok


 Judy Lui

Judy is the founder and clinical director of Your Story Counselling Services, A private practice clinic in Vaughan Ontario servicing individuals, couples, and families across the Greater Toronto Area. As a Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor, Judy is passionate about creating change and making mental health services more safe and accessible to the public. Judy believes in working collaboratively with others so that they can get back to themselves and their preferred way of life and living.

To learn more about the Your Story Counselling Team and the services we offer click here.

If you have additional questions regarding the contents of this article please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to answer you.

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