Steven Hayes founded the practices of ACT in 1982, which developed into the form still used today by the late 1980s. The basic tenets of ACT are to confront and to accept unpleasant feelings and to develop improved ways of dealing with such feelings, instead of avoiding situations that trigger them, or denying that such feelings exist. ACT aims to benefit its practitioners by guiding them towards feeling better, which in turn allows them to have a more flexible and realistic perspective of reality.
ACT has been tested in many scientific evaluations and has shown to be effective for those who are suffering from mental health-related problems like anxiety, depression, or substance addiction.
The core belief of ACT is that psychological pain is triggered by avoiding certain situations and being mentally rigid in one’s manner of thinking, feeling, and relating to the world. This rigidity, according to ACT, causes individuals to fail to take positive actions.
ACT’s understanding of ‘acceptance’ is that, in practice, one allows different thoughts to pass in and out of one’s mind without grappling with them. ACT’s understanding of commitment is that a person sets goals based on their core values, which ACT therapists help them to formulate, and then puts them into action in a manner that is responsible and self-empowering.
Other research emphasises ACT’s concern about the negative effects of being psychologically inflexible. In these correlative research findings, mental rigidity is shown to predict other serious mental problems, such as anxiety and depression.
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