Integrating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A Counselor’s Perspective

Are you a counselor or a psychology student seeking evidence-based therapy to add to your toolbox? Take a look at Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This method, which is based on mindfulness and principles, can assist your clients in making real changes in their lives.

How, though, do you use ACT in your counseling practice? As a practicing counselor, I’ve witnessed personally the transformational effect of this therapy. In this post, I’ll go over everything you need to know about incorporating ACT into your counseling practice, from tactics and strategies to case studies and practical advice. This post has something to offer whether you’re new to ACT or hoping to improve your comprehension and use of this method. Don’t pass up the potential to improve your counseling practice and assist your clients in building fulfilling lives. The integration of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy will be covered in detail later in this article.


  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) attempts to help people build psychological flexibility by strengthening their ability to accept difficult thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations while committing to values-aligned activities.
  • It can be used to treat a variety of mental health issues. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can provide numerous advantages to both clients and counselors.
  • Depending on the therapist’s approach and the client’s requirements, an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) session may have a different structure
  • Including ACT in your practice can be a valuable addition to your therapeutic toolkit, allowing you to provide your clients with the support and direction they require to achieve their objectives and overcome the problems they confront.


What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy technique that attempts to help people build psychological flexibility by strengthening their ability to accept difficult thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations while committing to values-aligned activities. ACT’s essential components are as follows:

  • Acceptance: Accepting thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations rather than striving to avoid or control them is emphasized in ACT. Clients learn to examine and acknowledge these experiences without judgment, allowing them to break free from unproductive avoidance and control routines. A client suffering from social anxiety, for example, may learn to embrace the bodily feelings of concern (such as sweating and shaking) and self-doubt that develop in social circumstances rather than trying to suppress or remove them.
  • Defusion: The act of detaching oneself from detrimental ideas and beliefs is referred to as defusion in ACT. The client learns to distinguish between their thoughts and facts or reality. By doing so, they can free themselves from unproductive mental habits and make a place for more adaptable and flexible thinking. For instance, a client experiencing depression might learn to treat their critical views about themselves as just thoughts rather than as facts about who they are.
  • Mindfulness: An essential part of ACT is mindfulness because it fosters clients’ present-moment awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance. Clients who practice mindfulness exercises like breath awareness, body scanning, and sensory awareness develop a more welcoming, mindful mindset. For instance, a client can engage in mindful breathing exercises to ground themselves in the present.
  • Values: ACT emphasizes the need of identifying and living one’s values. Clients are urged to establish their basic beliefs and to take activities that reflect those principles, even when they are uncomfortable or unsure. A client, for example, may define “connection” as a core value and take steps to develop and cultivate relationships.

What conditions can acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) treat?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a versatile and evidence-based therapy that can be used to treat a variety of mental health issues. Here are a few conditions that ACT can help treat:

  • Anxiety disorders: ACT has been shown to be useful in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and particular phobias. Clients learn to accept and tolerate unpleasant bodily sensations and worried thoughts, as well as to act in accordance with their values despite the presence of anxiety.

Read Blog: 2 ways to overcome social anxiety you didn’t know about – ACT Therapy

  • Depression: ACT can help clients suffering from depression by developing psychological flexibility, clarifying their values, and assisting them in acting on those values. Clients learn to recognize and challenge problematic thoughts and beliefs, as well as to engage in behaviors that provide them with a feeling of purpose and fulfillment.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): For patients with PTSD, ACT can be a helpful complement to trauma-focused therapy. Despite the continuous effects of trauma, clients learn to manage upsetting memories and feelings and to live according to their ideals.

Read Blog: What is Cognitive Processing Therapy For Coping With PTSD?

  • Chronic pain: By educating patients to accept and tolerate physical sensations as well as engage in actions that enhance their quality of life despite pain, ACT can assist clients with chronic pain. Instead of attempting to reduce or control their discomfort, clients learn to concentrate on what they can manage (such as their behaviors and beliefs).
  • Substance use disorders: By assisting clients in defining their values and creating a life that is worthwhile without the use of drugs or alcohol, ACT can be useful in treating substance use disorders.

Read Blog: How to Overcome Substance Abuse and Help Yourself?

  • Emotion regulation: Clients learn to accept and tolerate unpleasant emotions and urges, as well as to engage in actions that are consistent with their values.

Read Blog: How to control your emotions + Case study

ACT can help clients with eating problems by enhancing psychological flexibility and decreasing reliance on maladaptive defense mechanisms. Clients learn to accept and tolerate unpleasant emotions and physical sensations, as well as to engage in actions that match their health and self-care values.

Read Blog: What Are Defense Mechanisms: The Mechanism Behind Psychological Defenses And Why We Use Them?

Six Principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

The six principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

  1. Cognitive Defusion: Observing thoughts and emotions without judgment or attachment.
  2. Acceptance: Allowing and making room for painful or uncomfortable emotions and experiences.
  3. Contact with the Present Moment: Being fully present in the current moment.
  4. The Observing Self: Developing a sense of self-awareness and the ability to observe one’s own thoughts and emotions.
  5. Values: Identifying and committing to one’s personal values and taking actions that align with those values.
  6. Committed Action: Taking action toward one’s values despite uncomfortable thoughts and emotions.

To know more bout the principles of ACT, read our previous blog article!

Read Blog: What and How of ACT Therapy + Free Worksheet

1. How hands-on is an ACT therapist?

The level of “hands-on” involvement as an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) therapist might vary based on the client’s needs and goals. ACT therapists can be quite hands-on in the following ways:

  • Psychoeducation: ACT therapists frequently provide education on the fundamental principles and procedures of ACT. This could include describing the importance of acceptance, mindfulness, values, and dedicated action in the therapeutic process, as well as how these principles can be applied to various mental health issues.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness is an important component of ACT, and therapists may take clients through various mindfulness activities such as breath awareness, body scan, or mindful movement. The therapist may give specific directions and cues to assist clients to focus their attention and become more aware of their surroundings.
  • Values-based goal co-creation: ACT therapists collaborate with clients to discover their values and establish objectives that reflect those values. The therapist may ask questions to assist the client in clarifying what is important to them and in defining realistic and achievable goals that are consistent with their values.
  • Enabling exposure exercises: Exposure is a popular approach used in ACT to assist clients in confronting and tolerating unpleasant emotions or events. The therapist may help the client create a hierarchy of exposures, provide support and encouragement throughout exposures, and aid the client in processing their experiences afterward.
  • Timely feedback: ACT therapists provide continuing feedback and assistance to clients in order to help them build greater psychological flexibility and well-being. Offering validation, empathy, and encouragement, as well as confronting unhelpful attitudes or actions that are contradictory to the client’s values, may be part of this.

Ultimately, depending on the client’s requirements and goals, the level of hands-on involvement in ACT treatment might vary. ACT therapists, on the other hand, are taught to be actively engaged and helpful, as well as to collaborate with clients to assist them to reach their goals.

2. What does the structure of an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Session looks like?

Depending on the therapist’s approach and the client’s requirements, an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) session may have a different structure, but in general, it has the following format:

  • Check-in: The therapist will check in with the client at the beginning of the session to see how they are doing and what they would like to focus on.
  • Practice your mindfulness: Many ACT sessions start off with a mindfulness exercise to get the client more present and centered. This might entail using guided meditation, deep breathing, or other forms of mindfulness.
  • Review of the previous session: The therapist may quickly go over the previous session to assess the client’s development, emphasize any successes, and spot any issues that need to be resolved.
  • Explanation: ACT concepts will be explained and discussed by the therapist, including the role of acceptance, values, and committed action. This could include giving psychoeducation, giving examples, and answering any questions the customer has.
  • Applying ACT concepts to present obstacles: The therapist will assist the client in applying ACT concepts to their current difficulties and challenges. Identifying and exploring problematic beliefs or behaviors, practicing acceptance and mindfulness, and developing values-based goals are some examples.
  • Homework: Homework may be assigned by the therapist to assist the client in continuing to practice and apply ACT ideas between sessions. Mindfulness exercises, writing, or other activities linked to their values and aspirations may be included.
  • Wrap-up: The therapist will summarise the session and go through any major takeaways or gains. They may also request that the client thinks about what they have learned and how they may integrate ACT concepts into their daily lives.

3. How do you know if Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is working? How do you know if it’s not?

Understanding the therapeutic procedure and the objectives of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is necessary to determine whether the therapy is effective. Here are a few indicators that ACT may be effective:

Indicators that ACT is effective
  • Heightened consciousness of ideas and emotions
  • Increased capacity to accept challenging feelings and situations
  • More clarity on one’s ideals and objectives
  • Increased capacity to act morally despite discomfort or fear
  • Improved interpersonal connections and enhanced communication
  • Decreased anxiety or depression symptoms
Indications that ACT could not be effective or that modifications are required:
  • Absence of progress towards objectives or activities based on values
  • Persistent trouble accepting challenging feelings or events
  • Difficulties practicing mindfulness or applying ACT concepts into daily life
  • A sense of estrangement from the therapist or a lack of faith in the therapeutic process
  • Feeling trapped or uninspired?

It is crucial to realize that therapy progress is not always linear, and setbacks or problems may occur. The therapist and client should collaborate to discover what is and is not working in therapy and make necessary adjustments. This may entail revisiting ACT concepts, investigating underlying issues, or seeking extra assistance.

Finally, the effectiveness of ACT will be determined by the client’s specific needs and goals, the quality of the therapeutic relationship, and the therapist’s expertise and experience with ACT approaches. A client who actively participates in treatment is willing to practice mindfulness and acceptance, and is committed to values-based action is more likely to benefit from ACT.

3 strategies for practicing ACT therapy in your counseling practice

1. ACT exercises based on mindfulness

Actionable Steps: Urge your clients to engage in mindfulness practices like body scans, mindful walking, and mindful breathing. Tell them to be mindful of the current moment, without passing judgment on it, and to accept their thoughts and feelings as they come.

Pro-Tips: Encourage your clients to practice being non-judgmental towards their thoughts and emotions by using these activities as a technique to improve their awareness of the present moment.

Benefits: By teaching your customers to be more compassionate with their ideas and feelings, you can help them become more psychologically adaptable and sharpen their focus on their ideals.

Results: The results of practicing mindfulness activities include increased self-awareness, a decrease in stress and anxiety, and improved reaction time to challenging thoughts and emotions.

Read Blog: Try these 14 ways of Effective Mindfulness

2. Defusion techniques

Actionable Steps: Urge your customers to realize and observe their thoughts as distinct from their identities. Let them practice tactics such as identifying thoughts, seeing them as objects, or repeating them in amusing voices.

Pro-Tips: It is important to emphasize that defusion is not about getting rid of bad thoughts or feelings, but rather about learning to relate to them in a new way.

Benefits: Defusion strategies can assist your clients in separating themselves from unpleasant ideas and emotions and reducing their impact on behavior.

Outcome: Using defusion strategies can promote psychological flexibility, self-compassion, and the ability to engage in values-based actions.

Read Blog: What is Cognitive Defusion And How To Practice It?

3. Value Identification and Clarification

Steps to Take: Help your clients to identify their values in various areas of their lives (e.g., relationships, career, personal growth, etc.). Ask them to define their values by describing what it would look like if they lived according to their principles.

Pro-Tips: Assist your clients in seeing the link between their values and their conduct. Help them to set precise, measurable goals that reflect their values.

Benefits: Clarifying values can help your clients achieve a sense of direction and purpose, and drive them to make changes that correspond with their beliefs.

Outcome: Identifying and clarifying values can result in increased psychological flexibility, more authentic decision-making, and a greater sense of meaning and purpose.


By incorporating ACT into your counseling practice, you can give your clients a valuable tool for overcoming a variety of psychological challenges. You can enable your clients to develop more psychological flexibility, self-awareness, and emotional resilience by using the six ACT principles and the techniques and strategies covered in this article.

Learning and using ACT as a counselor or prospective counselor may take some time and effort, but the rewards for you and your clients may be significant. You may establish a secure and encouraging environment in which clients feel empowered to examine their thoughts and feelings and take action towards leading a more meaningful and satisfying life by embracing the principles of ACT and adopting a nonjudgmental, compassionate approach to client care.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer for counseling, including ACT in your practice can be a valuable addition to your therapeutic toolkit, allowing you to provide your clients with the support and direction they require to achieve their objectives and overcome the problems they confront. Thus, whether you’re a seasoned professional or a new student, consider diving into the realm of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to see how this powerful method may help you and your clients build greater psychological health and well-being.

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