ACT aims to help people develop skills to handle difficult thoughts and feelings more effectively, so they have much less impact and influence over them. The thoughts and feelings can be there but we don’t have to act on them or let them dominate.  

Many ACT techniques are based on mindfulness.  What is mindfulness?   It is awareness, not thought.   It is about bringing awareness/attention to the present moment with an attitude of openness, flexibility and acceptance.

A integral part of  ‘doing’ ACT is for the client to learn experientially that they don’t have to get caught up in their uncomfortable emotions and thoughts, neither do they  have to struggle with them, avoid them, or try to get rid of them.  A key tenet of ACT is that avoidance of uncomfortable thoughts/feelings actually leads to further problems.   ACT clients learn acceptance of thoughts/emotions while committing to taking action in alignment with their values and the direction they want to go in life.

Identifying values is a major part of ACT.  Clients clarify what is important to them and what values they want to live by in order to have a fulfilling and meaningful life.   Once values are identified, the emphasis shifts to developing goals and strategies for achieving them and then a commitment to taking action.

This is a very brief description of  a complex therapy which comprises an interesting mix of concepts and techniques.   ACT sessions are experiential and interactive and clients are required to practise techniques in between sessions.