The process of acceptance in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Barbara Barcaccia


At some level, any type of psychotherapy entails a certain degree of work on
acceptance that can take different forms: acceptance of one’s past history,
acceptance of how other people are, of injustice of some aversive life events, of the
occurrence of unwanted obsessive, depressive, anxious thoughts, or undesired
emotions, and so forth. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) all these
facets are pivotal, since acceptance is taken into consideration in its double
acceptation: at the level of external events (aversive life events) and at the level of
internal events (emotions and thoughts). Working on acceptance in ACT implies
both areas, even though in the present paper it will be mainly illustrated through
experiential acceptance, the willingness to experience unavoidable private events
without unnecessary attempts to change their frequency or form. Acceptance
always regards the unavoidable, but it is not tantamount to resignation or tolerance,
which are passive and fatalistic ways to deal with events. The process of acceptance
in ACT is one of the pillars of treatment, and specific exercises are devoted to
increase the patient’s willingness to take a perspective of non-judgemental
awareness and to be open and experience emotions and sensations as they arise.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT); Experiential Acceptance; Functional Contextualism.

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