The process of acceptance in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)




Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Experiential Acceptance, Functional Contextualism.


At some level, any type of psychotherapy entails a certain degree of work on acceptance that can take different forms: acceptance of one’s past history, acceptance of how other people are, of injustice of some aversive life events, of the occurrence of unwanted obsessive, depressive, anxious thoughts, or undesired emotions, and so forth. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) all these facets are pivotal, since acceptance is taken into consideration in its double acceptation: at the level of external events (aversive life events) and at the level of internal events (emotions and thoughts). Working on acceptance in ACT implies both areas, even though in the present paper it will be mainly illustrated through experiential acceptance, the willingness to experience unavoidable private events without unnecessary attempts to change their frequency or form. Acceptance always regards the unavoidable, but it is not tantamount to resignation or tolerance, which are passive and fatalistic ways to deal with events. The process of acceptance in ACT is one of the pillars of treatment, and specific exercises are devoted to increase the patient’s willingness to take a perspective of non-judgemental awareness and to be open and experience emotions and sensations as they arise.