the six core therapeutic processes in ACT are contacting the present moment, defusion, acceptance, and self-as-context, values, and committed action. Before we go through them one by one, take a look at the diagram in figure 1.1 which is light heartedly known as the ACT hexaflex. This diagram differs from the standard version you will find in most ACT textbooks in tat underneath each technological term I’ve written a short catchphrase to help you remember what it means.
Contacting the present moment (be here now)
-Contacting the present moment means being psychologically present: consciously connecting with and engaging in whatever is happening in this moment. Humans finds it very hard to stay present. Like other humans, we know how easy it is to get caught up in our thoughts and lose touch with the world around us. We may spend a lot of time absorbed in thoughts about the past or the future. Or instead of being fully conscious of our experience, we may operate on automatic pilot, merely “going through the motions.” Contacting the present moment means flexibily bringing our awareness to either the physical worlds around us or the psychological world within us, or to both simultaneously. It also means consciously paying attention to our here-and-now experience instead of drifting off into our thoughts or operating on automatic pilot.
Defusion (watch your thinking)
Defusion means learnings to “step back” and separate or detach from our thoughts, images, and memories. (the full term is “cognitive defusion” but usually we just call it defusion) Instead of getting caught up in our thoughts or being pushed around by them, we let them come and go as if they were just cars driving past outside our house.
We step back and watch our thinking instead of getting tangled up in it. We see our thoughts for what they are-nothing more or less than words or pictures. We hold them lightly instead of clutching them tightly.
Acceptance (open up)
Acceptance means opening up and making room for painful feelings, sensations, urges, and emotions. We drop the struggle with them, give them some breathing space, and allow them to be as they are. Instead of fighting them, resisting them, running from them, or getting overwhelmed by them, we open up to them and let them me and this does not mean liking them or wanting them. It simply means making room for them.
Self-as-Context (pure awareness)
In everyday language, we talk about the mind without recognizing that there are two distinct elements to it-the thinking self and the observing self. We are all familiar with the thinking self-the part of us which is always thinking-generating thoughts, beliefs, memories, judgments, fantasies, plans, and so on. But most people are unfamiliar with the observing self-the aspect of us that is aware of whatever we are thinking feeling, sensing, or doing in any moment.
Another term for it is “pure awareness”
In ACT, the technical term is self-as-context.
With clients, we generally refer to it as the observing self rather than use the technical term self-as-context.
Values (know what matters)
Deep in your heart, what do you want your life to be about? What do you want to stand for? What do you want to do with your brief time on this planet? What truly matters to you in the big picture? Values are described qualities of ongoing action. In other words, they describe how we want to behave on an ongoing basis. Clarifying values is an essential step in creating a meaningful life. In ACT, we often refer to values as chosen life directions. We commonly compare values to a compass because they give us direction and guid our ongoing journey.
Committed action (do what it takes)
Committed action’ means taking effective action, guided by our values. It is all well and good to know our values, but it is only via ongoing values-congruent action that life becomes rich, full, and meaningful. In other words, we won’t have much of a journey if we simply stare at the compass; our journey only happens when we move our arms and legs in our chosen direction. Values-guided action gives rise to a wide range of thoughts and feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant, both pleasurable and painful, So committed action means doing what it takes to live by our values even if that brings up pain and discomfort.
Any and all traditional behavioral interventions-such as goal setting, exposure, behavioral activation, and skills training-can be used in this part of the model. And any skill that enhances and enriches life-from negotiation to time management, from assertiveness to problem solving, from self-soothing to crisis coping-can be taught under the section of the hexaflex (provided that it is in the service of valued living and not in the service of experiential avoidance, which we will talk about later)
Psychological flexibility: A six-faceted diamond
Keep in mind that the six core processes of ACT aren’t separate processes. Although we talk about them that way for pragmatic purposes – to help therapists and clients learn and apply the ACT model-it is more useful to think of them as six facets of one diamond.
And the diamond itself is psychological flexibility.
Psychological flexibility is the ability to be in the present moment with full awareness and openness to our experience, and to take action guided by our values.