Definition of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Terms

One of my students (thank you so much!) thought it would be helpful for people to have access to a definition of terms for Mindfulness and ACT concepts-

Mindfulness & ACT Terms

Acceptance - making room (space) for unpleasant feelings and sensations instead of trying to suppress them or push them away (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 33)

The “acceptance” in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is based on the notion that, as a rule, trying to get rid of your pain only amplifies it, entangles you further in it, and transforms it into some- thing traumatic. Meanwhile, living your life is pushed to the side. (Get Out Of Your Mind And Into Your Life, Steven C. Hayes, p. 7)

ACT - Acceptance and commitment therapy. ACT is based on a new model of human cognition. This model underlies specific techniques presented in this book, which are designed to help you change your approach to your problems, and the direction in which your life has been going. These techniques fall into three broad categories: mindfulness, acceptance, and values-based living. (Get Out Of Your Mind And Into Your Life, Steven C. Hayes, p. 6)

Anxiety - Anxiety is the mind and body's reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It's the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. A certain level of Anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal - it can be completely debilitating. (

Awareness - Mindful awareness is being fully aware and tuned in to what is going on right now, in the present moment. It is all too easy to go through life on autopilot, caught up in reliving past events or planning for the future. Mindful awareness involves returning to the present moment, the only time one can actually be alive. It centers on accepting each moment fully just as it is, which can lead to a greater sense of peace and calm. Mindful awareness is our deeper sense of connection to our true selves. ( whole-health-for-pain-and-suffering/M3-Intro-to-Mindful-Awareness.pdf)

Basic emotions - The six basic emotions described by Eckman (happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise) are just a portion of the many different types of emotions that people are capable of experiencing. Eckman's theory suggests that these core emotions are universal throughout cultures all over the world. ( emotions-4163976); see also basic%20emotions.htm

Catastrophizing - a cognitive distortion that prompts people to jump to the worst possible conclusion (

CBT - Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing the automatic negative thoughts that can contribute to and worsen emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety. These spontaneous negative thoughts have a detrimental influence on mood. Through CBT, these thoughts are identified, challenged, and replaced with more objective, realistic thoughts. ( what-is-cognitive-behavior-therapy-2795747)

Cognition - The mental faculty of knowing, which includes perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, judging, reasoning, and imagining. (THE AMERICAN HERITAGE® STEDMAN'S MEDICAL DICTIONARY COPYRIGHT © 2002, 2001, 1995 BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY. PUBLISHED BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY.)

Cognitive - adjective form of cognition

Cognitive distortions - Cognitive distortions are biased perspectives we take on ourselves and the world around us. They are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time. ( distortions/)

Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves. (https://

Committed action - A rich and meaningful life is created through taking action. But not just any action. It happens through effective action, guided by and motivated by your values. And in particular, it happens through committed action: action that you take again and again, no matter how many times you fail or go off track. (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 34)

Commitment - see Committed action

Create space - This is what we are aiming for in expansion: to open up to our feelings and make plenty of room for them. This will ease the pressure, lighten the tension, and free those feelings to move. Sometimes they will move very rapidly; sometimes they will move more slowly. But as long as we make room for them, they will move. And more importantly, expansion frees us to invest our energy in creating a better life, rather than wasting it in useless struggles. (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 98)

Defusion - looking at your thoughts rather than from them (Get Out of Your Mind p. 70); for example, “I notice I’m having the thought that I am ...” (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 40)

Depression - Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home. ( depression)

Emotional Intelligence - The ability to understand and express what you are feeling (How to Help course from Therapy in a Nutshell, Emma McAdam)

Emotions - According to the book "Discovering Psychology" by Don Hockenbury and Sandra E. Hockenbury, an emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response. (https://

Expansion - Making room for unpleasant feelings and sensations instead of trying to suppress them or push them away. As you open up and make space for these feelings, you will find they bother you much less, and they “move on” much more rapidly, instead of “hanging around” and disturbing you. (The official ACT term for this principle is “acceptance.”) (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 33) See also Acceptance

Fusion - All too often we react to our thoughts as if they are the absolute truth or as if we must give them all our attention. The psychological jargon for this reaction is “fusion.” (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 39)

Grounding - Grounding techniques can help us learn to move out of the “what if’s” [anxiety] and “what was” [depression] into the now. When we are grounded in the present, we are more able to think clearly about our options in any given situation – no matter how stressful. We are fully present in the moment to make a powerful choice. (

Mindfulness -

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on

purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. ( kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/)

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it. (

Observing self - The observing self is fundamentally different from the thinking self. The observing self is aware, but does not think; it is the part of you that is responsible for focus, attention, and awareness. While it can observe or pay

attention to your thoughts, it can’t produce them. Whereas the thinking self thinks about your experience, the observing self registers your experience directly. (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 63)

Primary emotions - Primary emotions are direct emotional reactions to a situation, and they are called primary because they come first. It is your very first reaction to a situation or event, and they alert you about your needs. (https://

Psychological flexibility - the ability to adapt to a situation with awareness, openness, and focus and to take effective action, guided by your values; mindfulness + values + action = psychological flexibility (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 35)

Secondary emotions - We don’t always know or show what we feel [primary emotions]. You might experience unwanted feelings, or feelings that you have learned that are not ok to express. That is when you usually encounter your secondary emotions. A secondary emotion is an emotional response to a primary emotion, thus an emotion about what you feel. The reason that secondary emotions usually aren’t helpful is that they cover up what you really feel and send confusing signals to the outside world about what you need. (https://

Self-compassion - Self-compassion involves treating yourself the way you would treat a friend who is having a hard time—even if your friend blew it or is feeling inadequate, or is just facing a tough life challenge. The more complete definition involves three core elements that we bring to bear when we are in pain: self kindness, common humanity (the recognition that everyone make mistakes and feels pain), and mindfulness. ( of-mindful-self-compassion/)

Sit with - Regarding the expansion response to an unpleasant feeling. Allow the sensation to be there, even though you don’t like it or want it. In other words, “let it be.” (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 102)

Thinking self - The thinking self is the part of you that thinks, plans, judges, compares, creates, imagines, visualizes, analyzes, remembers, daydreams, and fantasizes. A more common name for it is the “mind.” Popular psychological approaches such as positive thinking, cognitive therapy, creative visualization, hypnosis, and neuro-linguistic programming all focus on controlling the way your thinking self operates. (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 63)

Values - Clarifying and connecting with your values is an essential step for making life meaningful. Your values are reflections of what is most important in your heart: what sort of person you want to be, what is significant and meaningful to you, and

what you want to stand for in this life. Your values provide direction for your life and motivate you to make important changes. (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, pp. 34-35)

Willingness - Willingness doesn’t mean you like, want, enjoy, desire, or approve of something. Willingness means you’ll allow it, make room for it, or let it be in order to do something that you value. (The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes, p. 212). See also Acceptance

91 views0 comments
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

© 2020 Therapy in a Nutshell LLC