Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in Liverpool and North West

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a “Third Wave” form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and is the perfect alternative for people who have tried more traditional CBT (perhaps through an IAPT service) and have not achieved the desired results.

ACT combines the cognitive and behavioural basis of traditional CBT with more recent developments such as mindfulness and behavioural contextualism to create an active, creative mode of therapy with the objective of helping you to live a rich, full and meaningful life.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is delivered by Access CBT face to face in Liverpool or Online to anywhere in the world.

What Is ACT?

ACT is type of therapy in which we aim to develop an understanding of, and change our relationship to, the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are getting in the way of living a full and rich life.

ACT is not about just getting rid of our symptoms. Instead we’re looking to change how we actually relate to our thoughts and feelings and, despite what they make us feel like not doing, choose to take committed action in the areas of our life that we want to develop.

“Experiential avoidance” and “Cognitive Fusion” are two types of problem which can get in the way of people living the lives that they want to lead. Experiential avoidance is, as the name suggests, when there is an unwillingness to feel and experience aspects of our external and internal lives. For instance, we may avoid asking our boss for that raise because of the potential experience of rejection. Or we might stay in a difficult relationship to avoid the pain that we associate with change. Mental health problems like Panic Disorder, OCD and Depression all carry with them an aspect of Experiential avoidance – where we invest so much time in avoiding an experience that the avoidance itself creates a problem.

Cognitive Fusion is the term we use to describe when we believe a thought to be an accurate way of interpreting the world or our inner experience. When we hold on tightly to such thoughts as “I’m a failure” or “I’ll panic so much, I’ll lose control” and treat them as an absolute truth, rather than just one of many other thoughts, then we are “fused” to our thoughts.

ACT is not about just getting rid of our symptoms. Instead we’re looking to change how we actually relate to our thoughts and feelings.

How does ACT Work With Unhelpful Thoughts?

CBT places a big emphasis on the role of negative thoughts in mental distress, suggesting that it is the way that we think about things that gives rise to the emotional states we experience. In traditional CBT, by working out whether the thought is an accurate representation of our experiences (and not a thinking bias or unhelpful thinking style), we can treat problems like depression, anxiety and trauma etc.

Traditional CBT based interventions work well with a number of problems but, as with all things in life, are not for everyone.

ACT’s approach to working with thoughts is to develop “Cognitive Defusion”. What does this mean? We typically view our thoughts as being “us”. To quote Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” When we routinely attach or listen to a particular type of thought and believe it as being “True”, then we would say that we are “fused” with the thought. For example, if I experience the thought, “I’m a failure” and automatically treat it as being an accurate, believable representation of life then we would say that I am fused to the thought.

If I am fused to the thought, “I am a failure”, then this will likely get in the way of me living a full and meaningful life. In fact, I am probably very aware of this and have tried to think differently about this many times before. I may have used traditional CBT techniques like thought challenging and still not managed to believe an alternative thought such as “I do quite well given how I feel.”

In ACT, we engage in a process of cognitive defusion to help us to treat the thought as just another mental event and to, rather than get into a battle with it or to let it stop us from doing things, learn to hold the thought lightly. The thought is there, but we don’t have to do anything with it. Learning cognitive defusion skills in ACT enables us to do this.

For more information or help about ACT, please do contact us.


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