What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven Hayes?

This blog post will answer the question “What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy By Steven Hayes?” and will cover an outline of the processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy By Steven Hayes

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a form of therapy that evolved from the Cognitive-Behavioural Tradition. It is part of the third wave of CBT and is based on clinical behaviour analysis. The core basis of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is the notion of psychological flexibility and its core processes are:

  • Acceptance
  • Cognitive Defusion
  • Contact with the present moment
  • Self as context
  • Values
  • Committed Action 

Theoretical basis of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy was founded by Dr. Steven Hayes, who is a Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. He is an author of 35 books and over 500 articles on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. 

Theoretically, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is based on Relational Frame Theory (RFT). A study defines RFT as a theory which offers an account of how language causes pain and provides alternative approaches to defuse language and cognition. 

The core basis of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is the development of psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility can be defined as the ability to stay in contact with the present moment despite unpleasant thoughts and feelings, and to persist in behaviour based on one’s values. 

Psychological Flexibility is established through six core Acceptance and Commitment Processes: 

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven Hayes?

Acceptance

Acceptance includes the active awareness of one’s thoughts and situations, without attempting to change them or challenge them. 

Acceptance does not mean liking or one’s current experiences or thoughts. Instead it means willingness to experience it fully and without any defenses. 

Acceptance is an alternative to our instinct to avoid negative thoughts and experiences. 

Cognitive Defusion 

Cognitive defusion is the ability to separate from your thoughts and let them come and go, instead of getting caught up with them and allowing them to dictate your actions. 

Diffusion is a powerful way to deal with unhelpful thoughts. Instead of being caught up in a world of thinking, it helps to detach from one’s thoughts and let them come and go. 

It is more beneficial to observe the thoughts come and go, rather than engaging in unhelpful thought and letting them guide one’s mood and behaviour.

Contact with the present moment

Contact with the present moment is about being in the now. Another word for this is mindfulness, which can be defined as a non-judgement contact with the present moment and one’s experiences.

The goal is to have people experience the world more directly so that their behavior is more flexible and thus their actions more consistent with the values that they hold. 

Practicing mindfulness has innumerous emotional and physical benefits, and is a skill that has to be practised daily. 

Self as context

As a result of language such as I versus you, now versus then, humans develop a sense of self or a self-perspective. 

This concept is important because from this standpoint, one can be aware of the flow of one’s experiences without attachment to them. 

It is fostered by using mindfulness and acceptance exercises, and aids in cognitive defusion. 

Values

Values are chosen qualities of action and one’s core principles which define the actions one takes. 

Values are more important than goals because one might not always achieve their goals, but can always choose to live by their values. 

Leading a life based on one’s values is the key to living a happy life, according to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. 

Committed Action 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy encourages the development of effective action based on one’s values. 

Committed action is about engaging in certain behaviours which will be in accordance with one’s values. 

These processes can help one develop psychological flexibility and change behaviour as needed in the service of their valued direction. 

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Applications of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy 

Instead of trying to directly change difficult thoughts or feelings, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can be employed to foster greater behavioural change. 

Research has found advantages associated with each of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy processes: 

  • Acceptance is found to increase persistence and willingness to participate in distressing tasks 
  • Cognitive Defusion is found to reduce subjective distress and believability of negative self-talk 
  • Contacting the present moment is found to increase task performance and reduce stress
  • Focusing on self as context is found to reduce post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and leads to increased self awareness 
  • Focusing on one’s values is found to increase focus, task performance and reduce psychological distress
  • Taking committed action is found to lead to greater long-term satisfaction and reduction of distress. 

Conclusions 

This blog post answered the question “What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy By Steven Hayes?” and gave an outline of the processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. 

FAQs: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven Hayes

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment therapy if a form of psychotherapy and a branch of clinical behaviour analysis. It is a mixed approach and its basis is to increase psychological flexibility. 

Who is the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Dr. Steven Hayes is the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy 

Who is Steven Hayes? 

Dr. Steven Hayes is the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. He is a Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. He is an author of 35 books and over 500 articles on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. 

Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy effective? 

Research has found that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is an effective form of psychotherapy, and can be used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and unhelpful thoughts. 

References 

Hayes, S. C., Levin, M. E., Plumb-Vilardaga, J., Villatte, J. L., & Pistorello, J. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy and contextual behavioral science: Examining the progress of a distinctive model of behavioral and cognitive therapy. Behavior Therapy, 44(2), 180-198.

Hayes S.C., Pierson H. (2005) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. In: Freeman A., Felgoise S.H., Nezu C.M., Nezu A.M., Reinecke M.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/0-306-48581-8_

Zhang, C. Q., Leeming, E., Smith, P., Chung, P. K., Hagger, M. S., & Hayes, S. C. (2018). Acceptance and commitment therapy for health behavior change: a contextually-driven approach. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 2350. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02350

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