Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

ACT is an orientation to behavior change and well-being that is based on functional contextualism as a philosophy of science, and behavioral and evolutionary science principles as expanded by RFT. As such, it is not a specific set of techniques or a specific protocol. ACT methods are designed to establish a workable and positive set of psychological flexibility processes in lieu of negative processes of change that are hypothesized to be involved in behavioral difficulties and psychopathology including:

  • cognitive fusion -- the domination of stimulus functions based on literal language even when that process is harmful,
  • experiential avoidance -- the phenomenon that occurs when a person is unwilling to remain in contact with particular private experiences and takes steps to eliminate the form or diminish the frequency of these events and the contexts that occasion them, even when doing so causes psychological harm
  • the domination of a conceptualized self over the "self as context" that emerges from perspective taking and deictic relational frames
  • lack of values, confusion of goals with values, and other values problems that can underly the failure to build broad and flexible repertoires linked to chosen qualities of being and doing
  • inability to build larger and larger unit of behavior through commitment to behavior that moves in the direction of chosen values

Technologically, ACT uses both traditional behavior therapy techniques (defined broadly to include everything from cognitive therapy to behavior analysis), as well as others that are more recent "3rd wave" methods, and those that have largely emerged from outside the behavior tradition, such as cognitive defusion, acceptance, mindfulness, values, and commitment methods.

Last reviewed: 2023

Intended Outcomes:

  • To teach participants to use acceptance as a way to deal with negative thoughts, feelings, symptoms, or circumstances
  • To encourage increased commitment to healthy, constructive activities that uphold your values or goals

Continuum of Care:

Topic Areas:
Anxiety, Depression, Substance Use

Adult (25+), Childhood (4-12), Teen/Adolescent (13-18)

Geographic Locations:
Rural, Urban

Delivery Settings:

Cultural Considerations:
A balanced amount of the research involved diverse populations

Adults with depression and some research to support effectiveness for other mental health conditions

Licensed Mental Health Professional


Is Training Required?
Yes, see developer info

Who can provide the required training?
Association for Contextual Behavioral Science

Program Costs (materials, training, etc.):
Yes, refer to program website

Program/Practice Website:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research:

Simon, E., essen, S., Lambert, A., & Muris, P. (2020;2019;). Challenging anxious cognitions or accepting them?: Exploring the efficacy of the cognitive elements of cognitive behaviour therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy in the reduction of children’s fear of the dark. International Journal of Psychology, 55(1), 90-97.

Puolakanaho, A., Lappalainen, R., Lappalainen, P., Muotka, J. S., Hirvonen, R., Eklund, K. M., Ahonen, T. P. S., & Kiuru, N. (2018;2019;). Reducing stress and enhancing academic buoyancy among adolescents using a brief web-based program based on acceptance and commitment therapy: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 48(2), 287-305.

Brahim, T., Bouzgarrou, S., & Guedria, A. (2021). Acceptance commitment therapy for preschool children : A pilot study. European Psychiatry, 64(S1), S495-S495.

Glover, N. G., Sylvers, P. D., Shearer, E. M., Kane, M., Clasen, P. C., Epler, A. J., Plumb-Vilardaga, J., Bonow, J. T., & Jakupcak, M. (2016). The efficacy of Focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in VA primary care.Psychological Services, 13(2), 156-161.

Additional Sources:

Promising rating

WV Rating:
»WV Ratings Info

Rationale for Rating:

Well supported by research for individuals over the age of 16 for PTSD, depression, anxiety; Promising for 7-15 year olds for phobias and anxiety; not enough evidence to rate for individuals under the age of 7 years old.

Other Registries/Ratings

The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
Well-Supported by Research Evidence

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development:
Not On Registry

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness:
Not On Registry

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide:
Not On Registry

Washington State Institute for Public Policy:
Found on the registry. See link for more information.

Washington State Institute for Public Policy Registry Link: