Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is pronounced as a one-syllable word, rather than as three letters or initials. It is an evidence based therapy that helps people achieve their goals. ACT emphasizes setting goals that are congruent with your values and helps you to commit and follow through with behaviors that will get you to achieve those goals. ACT can help you to reduce procrastination, overeating, drinking too much, and other self-defeating behaviors.

ACT in a Nutshell

ACT’s approach to behavior change in some ways is contrary to traditional Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Most CBT approaches help people change behaviors by reducing the intensity of their emotions. For example, if you’re nervous about asking someone out, CBT would help you to first reduce your anxiety about being rejected, by having you change your thinking. Then once your anxiety is down, it will be easier to initiate a conversation and ask someone out on a date.

ACT’s approach is somewhat the opposite. The behavioral goal is the same. However, instead of trying to change your emotions or thoughts before taking action, ACT will help you to relate differently to your emotions and thoughts, without changing them, and will “make room for them.” By creating that space you will then be able to take action while having the same thoughts and feelings. This has some distinct advantages in many cases. You don’t have to wait until an emotion subsides to take action. And in many cases, it may not be realistic to get rid of certain thoughts or feelings. ACT allows you to act anyway.

An easy pneumonic device that boils down ACT’s goals is 


A = Accept reactions

C = Choose a valued direction

T = Take action

This is in direct contrast to what many of us do many times when we are avoiding taking steps that would improve our lives.


F = Fusion with our thoughts

E = Evaluation of our experiences

A = Avoidance of our experience

R = Reason giving behavior


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History of ACT

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), developed by Dr. Steven Hayes in the 1990s and based in part on Relational Frame Theory, as well as Functional Contextualism. It makes use of an intervention model, as well as the principles of mindfulness, commitment (to behavior change), acceptance (of thoughts and feelings), and values clarification. The goal is for the client, through experiential exercises and other strategies based on these principles, to increase psychological flexibility.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’s Effectiveness

ACT has demonstrated high success rates with several types of disorders. For example, OCD patients, in trials with ACT, have shown increased willingness to experience and manage their obsessive thoughts rather than yielding to their anxieties. And studies of ACT with opiate addicts demonstrate decreased drug use. Besides OCD and substance abuse disorder, ACT is being used successfully for patients with other anxiety disorders (including panic disorder), major depressive disorder (or other depression), chronic pain disorder (pain management), and even smoking cessation.

ACT Therapy in New York City

If you are interested in how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help you identify goals, achieve those goals, and build a more satisfying life, please contact us. We will be happy to answer questions and if you decide ACT is for you, begin to help you move in the direction you choose. You no longer have to let your thoughts and feelings dictate your direction in life.

An ACT therapist can be reached at 646-599-3498.

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