“Get Out of Your Mind” and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)

People suffer. First line of Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life

Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a 2005 book by psychologist Steven C. Hayes and Spencer Smith that advocates a scientifically based treatment approach nicknamed ACT that “is not about fighting your pain; it’s about developing a willingness to embrace every experience life has to offer. It’s not about resisting your emotions; it’s about feeling them completely and yet not turning your choices over to them. ACT offers you a path out of suffering by helping you choose to live your life based on what matters to you most.”

As Hayes, one of the key developers of this model, tells Amazon.com, ACT “…is based on a rather remarkable fact: when normal problem solving skills are applied to psychologically painful thoughts or feelings, suffering often increases. Our research program has shown this in thousands of patients, in almost every area of human suffering. Fortunately, we have discovered why this is and we have developed some ways of correcting it.”

Emphases are placed are such factors as language as a cause of suffering, the trap of avoidance, learning to accept pain, practicing mindfulness, being in the present, and recognizing your values.

Adherents of ACT say that FEAR is what causes many of our problems.

  • Fusion with your thoughts
  • Evaluation of experience
  • Avoidance of your experience
  • Reason-giving for your behavior

The ACT treatment model involves the following steps:

  • Accept your reactions and be present
  • Choose a valued direction
  • Take action

Although seemingly related to various types of cognitive behavioral therapy, ACT is actually quite different. As Liane Thomas, Amazon.com, capsulizes in her review of Get Out of Your Mind:

Trying to ‘change’ negative thoughts through cognitive gymnastics is like trying to win a war single-handedly. Why waste a life trying the impossible?…Rather than fighting off bad thoughts and feelings with internal pep talks, Hayes beautifully explains how to embrace those pessimistic and foreboding mental voices (much like welcoming home one’s cranky, play-worn children), ‘defuse’ them with respectful attention, and commit to leading a purposeful life that includes their occasional ranting…Critics of cognitive and behavioral therapies will warm to Hayes’ logical explanations of language’s pitfalls (even language used by other therapeutic approaches); his sometimes goofy–but surprisingly effective–exercises; well-timed etymology lessons; and his uncanny ability to predict and skillfully address reader reactions throughout the workbook.

ACT, Hayes believes, is helpful for a wide variety of problems, including anxiety and depression, substance abuse, and physical health concerns. In fact, how he learned to deal with his own past panic disorder influenced many of the theories underlying ACT.

More recently therapist and coach Russ Harris put together the workbook ACT Made Simple (2009), and he’s been given many kudos for making this therapy approach more accessible.

Harris has written several other pertinent books, including the 2008 The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living (A Guide to ACT), its recent counterpart called The Illustrated Happiness Trap, and Getting Unstuck in ACT (2013).

Perhaps of special interest is that Harris also offers many free resources (worksheets, handouts, and book chapters) on his website.

The video below is meant to be a metaphor illustrating some concepts of ACT found in Get Out of Your Mind. See YouTube for others on this topic.

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