Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a third wave cognitive-behavioural therapy that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies together with commitment and behaviour strategies to help increase your psychological flexibility.

How does ACT work?

ACT is particularly effective in helping people live in the present moment in a conscious way and to make choices and decisions that are in line with their values.


The core message of ACT is to accept what is out of your personal control while committing to action that will improve the quality of your life. The aim of ACT is to help people live a meaningful life while handling pain and stress – which is an inevitable part of life.


ACT teaches you skills to help you deal with painful thoughts and feelings effectively and to understand what is truly important and meaningful to you. Mindfulness skills are central to ACT and are taught to help you develop an ‘observing self’ that will help you notice both your physical experiences and thinking processes.


ACT is a unique approach to behaviour change which deviates from the traditions of most common Western psychotherapies. It has a growing evidence base and is highly effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, substance misuse, chronic pain and anorexia. ACT can also be used as a model for life coaching and executive coaching.

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ACT therapy - how does it work?

  • You and your therapist will look into the main areas of your life such as relationships, career and education, leisure, family, spirituality in order to develop an understanding of your values and goals
  • You will develop skills and strategies that help you work towards achieving your goals and living your life in a way that is consistent with your values
  • You will be asked to do homework between sessions
  • You will work towards taking effective action in order to create a rich and meaningful life
  • Your therapist will help you stay focused on developing resilience so that you can live the life that you want rather than be constrained by the impact of negative thoughts and feelings

Frequently asked questions

You are most likely to be offered ACT if it has a strong evidence base for your particular issue/s or if you’re interested in a type of therapy which focuses on the present. ACT can also be helpful if you’re feeling “stuck” and looking to uncover more direction in your life. In ACT, your therapist will help you clarify your values and understand how your difficulties might be acting as an obstacle to becoming the kind of person you want to be.

ACT is a more contemporary therapy approach which thinks about the mechanisms for change differently to CBT. ACT focuses on accepting difficult thoughts and feelings, even if they cause us pain and encourages us to live a life directed by our values irrespectively. In this sense, it works differently to CBT which focuses on helping us change unhelpful thinking patterns. ACT is likely to be helpful to you if you have already tried CBT and it hasn’t been particularly effective.

This is likely to vary depending on the nature of your difficulties. But generally speaking, ACT is a short to medium term therapy approach so anywhere between 12 – 24 sessions would be considered a meaningful intervention.

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Dr Stacie Tay

Dr Stacie Tay attained her BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Nottingham and worked as a psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, before returning to the UK to complete her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University College London.   

Dr Tay has worked in a variety of settings within the NHS for more than eight years, including primary and secondary care, specialist psychological services and forensic inpatient settings. She currently works as a Clinical Psychologist at the North East London Foundation Trust.  

She has extensive experience working with individuals and groups, providing evidence-based psychological therapies including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and Mindfulness-based approaches as well as Schema-informed therapy.   

Dr Tay’s clinical experience involves working with people who present with a range of mild to severe mental health difficulties. This includes depression, anxiety (OCD, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, health anxiety, phobia-related disorders, PTSD), stress related issues, low self-esteem, complex trauma, interpersonal difficulties, grief and bereavement, and long-term health conditions.