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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), according to founder Steven C. Hayes, represents a single example in the larger body of the “Third Wave” of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (Hayes, 2004). Hayes claims that this Third Wave builds upon the foundations of the first two waves of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, while others would argue that ACT flies in the face of Cognitive Theory by challenging some of the basic principles of Cognitive Therapy. Relational Frame Theory forms the basis for ACT by asserting that as human we have the capability to recognize relations between different things, however we are also able to take that relation and place over the top of other thing which may or may not be correlated (Hayes, 2004).

Traditional Cognitive therapy would recommend the client to face the irrational cognition and to challenge it and replace it with a more rational cognition. Here is where ACT diverges by saying that challenging the cognition leads to cognitive fusion and then experiential avoidance. Instead ACT asks the client to “make peace, not war” by first accepting the fact they are having a thought but realizing they are not limited by the thought.

ACT recognizes six dualistic core “processes” which can determine whether a person is psychologically flexible or inflexible. A psychologically flexible individual demonstrates the following processes Acceptance, Defusion, Self as Context, Committed Action, Values, and Contact with the Present Moment, while someone experiencing psychological inflexibility falls on the opposites of these six processes by showing Experiential Avoidance, Cognitive Fusion, Attachment to the Conceptualized Self, Inaction; Impulsivity; or Avoidant Persistence, Lack of Values, and Dominance of the Conceptualized Past and Feared Future; Weak Self-Knowledge (Twohig M. P. and Hayes S.C., 2008).

Definitions of the six core processess:

describes a state of mind that the individual must obtain where they acknowledge the events that are transpiring before them while recognizing that they have the ability to react to the events and not be controlled by them.

is best defined as a separation of one's self from their current state of mind. By stepping back from our emotional selves we can look objectively at what is happening and make decisions about the events.

Self as a Context
actually consists of three parts conceptualized self, ongoing self-awareness, and observing self. The conceptualized self is sum of expectations, both external and internal, that individuals perceive and enforce on themselves of what they should be. Ongoing self-awareness is related to acceptance and defusion in it is our present consciousness which is usually more objective and analytical. The last part is the observing self which is more of a metaphysical perspective that we have a part of us that observes ourselves which is connected yet detached from the contextual elements of our experience.

Contact with the present moment
describes peoples' tendencies to live in their pasts or in the future. The problem with living in the past or looking into the future is that the client has no ability to change what was already done and can not directly affect most future events til they arrive in the present.

represent the motivation and source of change, while the other processes are effectively the impetus for change. Examples of values can be anything that client feels is important to living a good life such as family, friends, and involvement.

Finally committed action is the culmination of the other processes and the most rewarding part. Without this final piece all of the efforts to establish the other processes would be in vain(Twohig M. P. and Hayes S.C., 2008).

Ellis, A. (2005). Can Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Resolve Their Differences and be Integrated? Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 23(2), 153-168. doi: 10.1007/s10942-005-0008-8

Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy, relational frame theory, and the third wave of behavior therapy. Behavior Therapy, 35, 639−665. Retrieved from http://www.

Twohig, M. P. and Hayes, S. C. (2008). ACT VERBATIM for Depression & Anxiety.Oakland, CA:New Harbinger Publicatins inc.