ACT/ Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Applications: Trans-diagnostic 

Developed by: Steven Hayes in 1982 

Conceptually connected to Relational Frame Theory (RFT), and has strong ties with behaviour therapy.

A third generation/wave approach which focuses more on strategies of mindfulness, acceptance and cognitive defusion, rather than confronting the experience of a psychological event.

Rooted in the philosophy of functional contextualism – rather than aiming to change thoughts and feelings within a given context – ACT aims at changing the context that links these aspects. Psychopathology is seen as psychological inflexibilities. Cognitive fusion refers to behaviour that is regulated by inflexible verbal processes, rather than environmental reinforcements, leading to a need to want to avoid what is an uncomfortable emotion.

People lose track of their long-term goals and values during an effort to achieve relief from psychological pain.

There are six core processes in ACT, aimed at creating psychological flexibility:

  • Acceptance is taught vs a natural inclination to avoid, i.e. feeling anxiety as a feeling.
  • Cognitive Defusion changes the interaction with a thought, i.e. watching the thought dispassionately, thereby weakening its effect.
  • Being present in a non-judgemental way.
  • Self as context, being separate from experiences.
  • Values are qualities that drive action, focus on authentic values.
  • Committed action derived from values, may include help in skills acquisition, shaping methods, etc.

The contact person: Bertus Swanepoel at

Resource: and

Beth Cooper Howell Proof reader/copy editor

Contributions by
Prof David Edwards
Dr Linda Blokland
Matthew Watkin
Edgar Tyrone
Bertus Swanepoel
Dr Shane Pienaar-Du Bruyn