ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy)

Submitted by Aaron on Wed, 07/10/2015 - 12:07pm

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be used to describe a range of modern therapies that have evolved from the initial model of Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis in the latter part of last century.  Sometimes referred to "third wave" therapies, these approaches included DBT (Dialectical behavior therapy), ACT (Acceptance and commitment therapy), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy.  While of these new therapy approaches can be considered as a natural advancement on the original therapy CBT techiques (many have added acceptance and mindfulness as components), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has a different theoretical background and takes a radically different approach to distressing and painful thoughts and feelings.  The main distinction in ACT is to focus on the relationship a person has to internal experiences, rather than the trying to challenge or change the content of thoughts and feelings.  This new perspective allows us to consider unpleasant thoughts and feelings as an expected and normal part of real life - and instead focuses on the unhelpful and inflexible ways we might response to this pain.  Russ Harris has written a number of popular self help books and is one of the leading authors to outline an ACT approach.  The first introduction chapters of The Happiness Trap, The Reality Slap and ACT with Love are all freely available on the internet (see

So when we say a course of CBT - there might be a variety of different approaches and techiques offered.

10 apps that could help

Submitted by Aaron on Sat, 08/11/2014 - 8:12pm

This link has a good list of apps from the Guardian newspaper.  I recommend the Thought Diary Pro as a good cognitive behavioural therapy diary, and use it with the CBT therapy I provide.  The alternative for Android phones is Cognitive Diary by Excel at Life (not listed in the article).  We may as well use our mobile phones for a positive and enriching psychological experience (rather than social avoidance and procasination!)

support for cognitive behavioural therapy

Submitted by Aaron on Mon, 10/02/2014 - 4:15pm

It is nice to see some supportive comments about talking therapy (and specifically cognitive behavioural therapy) in the Auckland Herald 10 Feb 2014.

Deborah Hill Cone expresses her concern about the limited funding of evidence based talking treatments for depression

See the article here


Submitted by Aaron on Sat, 01/12/2012 - 6:31pm

In recent times CBT therapies have begun to include the concept of mindfulness.  Most CBT therapists are offering mindfulness mediation as a component of the treatment interventions.  I have recently found this UK be mindful website which explains the process of training your attention toward the current moment (rather than becoming lost in the past or overinvolved in the future).  There are some good video clips including a good summary on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for depression.

Is Modern Medicine Killing You?

Submitted by Aaron on Tue, 16/10/2012 - 2:37pm

Is modern medicine killing you?  Probably not, although it would be wise to watch the current TV series, 8pm TVOne, Wednesdays.

It might mention CBT!

my favourite CBT quote

Submitted by Aaron on Mon, 15/10/2012 - 10:27pm


as expressed by Margaret Thatcher (although the original source is unknown):

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become...habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become. My father always said that, and I think I am fine."

CBT homework

Submitted by Aaron on Sun, 14/10/2012 - 10:50pm

Most of the therapeutic work in CBT happens between the weekly sessions.

Initially it is about keeping a record of stressful events during your usual week, and then learning to notice the thoughts that accompany the distress.  This can take some practice, but most people begin to catch their thoughts after a week or two of keeping a cogntions diary.

I've attached an example of a typical cogntions diary used in the first few sessions of CBT.

CBTcognitionsdiary.pdf65.06 KB

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

Submitted by Aaron on Sat, 13/10/2012 - 10:20pm

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

This is the most common question I get asked, and it’s taken almost 15 years for me to think of an answer that adequately describes my profession without defining what psychologist don't do ("psychologists are not doctors and don't give medication").

The most apparent difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is that psychologists will provide psychological solutions for the problem, but do not prescribe medication.  There are however important differences in how each discipline conceptualises and develops solutions for behavioural and emotional problems.

These different underlying assumptions are based on the academic/scientific basis of the two professions.  Psychologists have an academic background in the scientific study of behaviour, thinking and emotions.  The discipline of psychology considers normal behaviours and thinking - and the full range of individual differences expected in different  populations, in different circumstances.  Many psychologists study and apply this knowledge to everyday situations and settings (e.g. child development, organisational culture, social norms, brain structures).

Clinical psychologists apply this understanding of normal human processes to those who present with behavioural or emotional problems.  The treatments are based on psychological models of distress, are evidence based, and normalise the presenting problem as an expected, yet unwanted, part of human experience (a persons distress is usually very understandable given their life circumstances).

Psychiatrists are medical specialists, and like all medical staff, are trained to recognise and treat sickness or illness.

It can sometimes be useful to consider mental health presentations as an illness, and many mental health conditions do respond well to medication – however, it can be problematic to solely focus on biological conceptualisations and treatments.  In my opinion, human experience and distress are often over pathologised and frequently treated as a distinct sickness, in need of being treated.


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