The History of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
ACT is a part of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. ACT (pronounced as the word ACT rather than A.C.T) is considered a 3rd wave therapy of CBT. This means that originally there was the 1st wave of cognitive and behaviour therapies, then the 2nd wave is where these two therapies were combined to make cognitive behavioural therapy, and now we have some newer 3rd wave therapies such as ACT, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
ACT was originally published in 1999 and comes from relational frame theory which is a behaviour theory of human language and cognition. This is in addition to applied behavioural analysis which is a powerful model for predicting and influencing behaviour that has impacted almost every branch of modern psychology. Finally, ACT has been influenced by the philosophical viewpoint of functional contextualism. Functional contextualism is the philosophy of how things function in specific contexts for example we might view a 3 legged chair as broken however, in other contexts it can serve many purposes such as being part of practical joke, being art or demonstrating flaw’s in a furniture-making class.
ACT is based on the principle that not being psychologically flexible is the cause of our distress. That is to say that throughout our lives pain is to be expected, it is a natural experience we all go through. From the principles of ACT it believes that that struggle with pain and attempts to avoid it and push it away are what maintains it. So we must learn to be separate from our thoughts, be aware of how we evaluate our experiences, learn to be present and accept these experiences. ACT is particularly useful for people who find themselves in situations that they cannot change or do not have control over and research has shown it can be effective when working with stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, substance use, and people experiencing physical illnesses such as cancer.