Mental well-being is just as important as physical health. As reported by the World Health Organisation, one out of every five children has some kind of mental condition. As a matter of fact, studies (conducted by ACOG or Mental Health Disorders in Adolescents) prove mental conditions or disorders develop even before the age of fourteen.

That's intriguing and ironic all the same. Regardless of technological advancements, economic betterment, and our lives being more convenient than ever before, we struggle. But, such advancements have helped develop ACT; you might wonder what acceptance and commitment therapy is?

Did you know that as per the UN reports, 1 trillion USD is lost per year from the global economy due to low productivity caused by anxiety and depression?

ACT or Acceptance and Commitment theory is the third generation of behavioural therapy after MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) and DTB (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy). It is proven to effectively treat individuals struggling with anxiety, OCE (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), depressive disorder and substance abuse.

Tag along to learn more about ACT, the core principles, evolution through the years and what is acceptance and commitment therapy used for? Read forth for more insights.

6 core principles of acceptance and commitment therapy

What Are the Six Core Principles of ACT?

Now you might be somewhat familiar with the ACT and who may prefer using it. Let’s move on to a more in-depth study. There are six core principles in acceptance and commitment theory based on specific metaphors, methodology, commitments, and exercises. Also, keep in mind that there are no set techniques for implementing these principles, there are hundreds of different methods, and varied ones are used by different people/psychologists.


Just as it sounds, cognitive diffusion is the breakdown of thoughts, instances, images, memories, etc., as mere words and happenings. People struggle with things that can be anxiety-inducing, but through diffusion, they can perceive them as less threatening.


Making room for all the negative emotions/thoughts/memories and letting them pass without a struggle. Accepting the struggles offers leeway for letting them go or losing their effectiveness.

Contact with the Present Moment

Focusing on the present struggles and the apparent reality helps develop a motive for the future. Helps define goals beyond the mental struggles that decrease focus on mental distress.

In 2020-21, 15 percent of the Australians aged between 16 to 85 years of age self-reported high or very high psychological distress levels. - ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Observing Self

People are made to focus on themselves, not only as of the person they are but also as transcendent beings impervious to any form of hurt or harm. Believing in oneself as invincible provides resolve to get over their mental struggles.


People focus on their core values - the type of person they are, their resolve, achievements, losses, and what they thrive on being in the future. A person’s core beliefs/values are part of their subconscious and can never be erased despite the bad experience and mental struggles.

Committed Action

Lastly, after focusing on their core values and apparent self, people commit to treatment and life changes depending on their resolve. It can be challenging to fulfil the commitment, but they can devise a suitable action plan with a counsellor's guidance.

If you previously wondered what is acceptance and commitment therapy? These six core principles are what all counsellors use to curate a resolution plan/therapy for their patients. The main objective of ACT is not to purge the patient of all their issues but to help resolve them. It is a journey rather than a process that requires individual zeal and commitment to the resolution techniques.

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What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Used for, And What Makes It Different From Other Behavioural Theories?

Acceptance and commitment therapy is one of Western psychology’s most successful theories with a distinct research program/body of knowledge. ACT does not aim at symptom reduction but at transforming the patient’s relationship with their issues. Here’s how it stands out from its counterparts:

Healthy Normality

Western psychology is based on the idea that humans are normally born healthy, and our lifestyle choices and experience are responsible for our mental and physical struggles. This idea is heavily incorporated into ACT; given a healthy environment and better opportunities, everyone is capable of leading healthier lives.

Destructive Normality

It is commonly assumed in the ACT that humans are normally capable of being destructive and creating psychological suffering. Human cognition/language is a double-edged sword capable of destroying the opponent and oneself. The acceptance stage incorporates such fundamental theories.

Experiential Avoidance

The internal/psychological suffering created by our interaction with the outside world is experiential avoidance. We, humans, believe in avoiding our suffering rather than resolving them. ACT postulates that the more time we spend avoiding the problems, the more we suffer in the long run.

Therapeutic Intervention

People opt for getting psychological therapy to purge their issues/addictions, but ACT does not aim at control or avoidance. Acceptance and commitment therapy aims to develop acceptance of your issues, face them, and commit to measures that lead to a valued life.

Creative hopelessness is a method used in the ACT that helps people quit ineffective lifestyle choices and help them open up to a values-oriented future.

Acceptance and commitment theory states that "control is the issue, not the solution". Moreover, our inter issues are like quicksand; the more we struggle, the quicker it consumes us. Hence, ACT is effective as it does not support avoidance or ridding oneself of all the trials. Rather it subjects people to accepting and developing new outlooks and measures to help lead a better and healthier life.

how does act work

How Did ACT Evolve Through the Years?

Now that you are familiar with ACT and its core principles, So, before we move on to learning what acceptance and commitment therapy is used for, we'll discuss how ACT came to be and its evolution.

Originally known as comprehensive distancing, ACT was developed in 1982 by psychologists Steven Hayes, Kirk Strosahl and Kelly Wilson. Integrating both behaviour therapy and covert conditioning is effective in helping patients move towards a more value-oriented behaviour.

The University of Amsterdam's (2015) meta-analysis proved ACT to be better than placebo. The strategy and effectiveness of this therapy are quite similar to traditional psychological treatment methods like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

ACT has been empirically tested and proven useful for a variety of populations. The acceptance and commitment therapy was based on acknowledging issues, not getting past them. It took behavioural theory to the next level. Considering ‘acceptance’ as the missing link between behavioural commitments and effectiveness.

The ACT body of knowledge currently has over 2000 studies and 280 trials conducted among 30,000 participants globally. It is a part of every mental and behavioural treatment measure. It has also branched out to the recreational areas - component studies, meditation analysis, and over 40 meta-analyses in the literature developed in 2011-2020.

Hopefully, you know what acceptance and commitment therapy is and how effective and popular it is in modern psychology. 

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About the Author

Albert Freddie

Albert Freddie

Albert Freddie is an educational technologist who has worked at the department of industry, innovation, and science, then joined a private institute to teach students about energy, and resources. He loves to write blogs and articles to help students in providing guidance in the subject area and assignments.


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