ACT differs from CBT in that
instead of challenging distressing thoughts by looking for evidence and
coming up with a more rational response (CBT), in ACT, the thought is
accepted as a thought, e.g. “I’m having the thought that this boat is going to sink”,
and then defused using a variety of techniques, which may include
mindfulness, metaphors and language.
uses three broad categories of techniques: mindfulness, including
being present in the moment and defusion
techniques; acceptance; and commitment to values-based living.
can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf"
is based on the idea that, generally, trying to rid ourselves of pain
and distress only increases it, and turns it into something
traumatic. The alternative is to accept it - but that doesn't
mean being defeated or tolerating suffering. We learn to make
room for painful feelings, thoughts, and sensations - allowing them to
be there, coming and going without us struggling against them.
can learn to free yourself from the traps and barriers of life, and see
what you really want your life to be.
Suppose you come
across someone standing in the middle of a pool of quicksand - there
are no ropes or tree branches available. The only way you can
help is by talking to them. The person shouts "HELP! GET ME
OUT!", and is beginning to do what people do - struggling to get
out. 99.9% of the time, the effective action to take is to walk,
run, step, hop, or jump out of trouble.
with quicksand. Normally, to step out of something, you need to
lift one foot and move the other forward. With quicksand, that's
a bad idea. Once one foot is lifted, all the person's weight
rests on only the other foot (half the previous surface area), and the
downward pressure doubles. The person sinks deeper.
you watch, you see them starting to sink deeper. If you
understand how quicksand works, you might shout at them to lie flat,
spread-eagled, to maximise contact with the surface. The person
therefore probably won't sink, and might be able to roll to
the person is trying to get out of the quicksand, it goes against all
their natural instincts to maximise body contact with it. Someone
struggling to get out of the mud, may never realise that the
wise and safer action is to get with the mud.
own lives can be very much like this. The normal problem-solving
methods that we use (sometimes repeatedly for years) to try to deal
with the struggles we face, may themselves be part of the problem, just
like someone trying to get free of the quicksand.
offers something very different, to help us free ourselves from the
quicksand we find ourselves in, but to get with it. By doing so,
we can relieve our suffering and become empowered to lead valued,
meaningful, dignified human lives.
on the Boat" animation is a variation of the "Passengers on the Bus"
metaphor, which shows how we can notice thoughts and feelings, and
choose not to react to them. Thoughts are just passing streams of