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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

by Amy Geary

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), like CBT, is a behaviour based therapy but with a few additional aspects such as mindfulness and with an emphasis on personal values - defining them and then using these as a compass in our daily decision making and actions. It personally speaks to me greatly as a therapeutic approach. 

There are many facets within ACT and here I will zone in on one aspect - cognitive defusion. The aim with defusion techniques and in ACT as a whole is to become more cognitively flexible. Integrating cognitive defusion over time can mean we are less attached to those thoughts that don’t serve us and we are able to pivot to thoughts that are more helpful for us. This is where acceptance comes in, in a sense we accept the difficult thought/feeling/emotion, we don’t wrangle with it and over time our flexibility to do so increases. 

Here are a couple of simple techniques to train that cognitive flexibility:

Defusing from the thought practice 

Putting the phrase ‘I am having the thought that….’ e.g I am having the thought that I am going to find this BBQ with strangers really awkward’ - you can see how this creates distance from the thought as absolute truth 

Defusing from the thought practice 

If you find yourself having some intrusive thoughts that are difficult you might try to sing those thoughts in your head to the tune of something playful or silly like happy birthday or hearing the thoughts in a silly voice - it may sound in itself silly but it is and can help us defuse from the thought in that moment 

Observing Thoughts Mindfulness practice 

❖ Close your eyes in a comfortable position and imagine a stream, with leaves floating down


❖ As thoughts appear, place them on the leaves and let them float past

❖ Whenever you get hooked by thoughts, gently unhook yourself and carry on.

❖ See if you can try this once or twice a day for 3 to 5 minutes

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