Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Resources

During my career in the counseling field, I have watched various tools and techniques come-and-go. While many are quickly passing fads, occasionally something emerges that really changes the trajectory of the counseling practice for a long time. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT is one of those approaches that is making a large and lasting shift in the counseling field.

An interesting phenomenon is commonly observed in people that are struggling: As human beings, the more we are consumed with fighting against painful thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations, the more distant our focus and follow-through on the things we truly value in life becomes. In treatment with ACT, we help clients deal more effectively with painful thoughts and feelings (Acceptance) while also helping clients focus and move toward the things they truly value in life (Commitment). This helps clients to unhook from the internal experiences that keep them stuck and get them focused on living in the here-and-now.  As the founder of ACT says, “get out of your mind and into your life.”

Below are several resources that we frequently use in clients dealing with anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues:

The Illustrated Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living
Author: Russ Harris
Type of Reading: Simple
This 176-page book takes the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and teaches them through fun, easy-to-understand cartoons. Even if you are ‘not a reader,’ you will have no problem getting through this book and learning the concepts. It is often our initial go-to book on this topic since you can start using the skills right from the beginning. This book is not written from a Christian perspective, but you can easily sort out the parts that don’t fit. For an excellent overview of this approach, watch The Struggle Switch Video.

Freedom from Anxious Thoughts and Feelings
Author: Scott Symington, PhD
Type of Reading: Accessible and Practical
This 200-page book offers a practical method for overcoming anxiety, depression, and addictive urges. We often use this book for individuals dealing with negative self-talk, intrusive thoughts, and painful feelings/sensations as they seek to pursue their core values in life. For a brief overview of Dr. Symington’s method, consider watching the Two Screen Method Video or reading his brief article How to Not Worry. While written for a general audience, this approach is highly compatible with a Christian worldview. Many people of faith have found it to provide a simple, but effective, mindfulness tool without concern of eastern mysticism.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Christian Clients: A Faith-Based Workbook
Author: Joshua Knabb, Psy.D.
Type of Reading: In Depth
This 194-page workbook offers an overview of the core ACT skills and includes biblical examples, equivalent concepts from the writings of early Christians, worksheets for clients to better understand and apply the material, and strategies for clients to integrate a Christian worldview with the ACT-based processes. Christians struggling with depression and anxiety will find this book very supportive of their spiritual beliefs as they seek to overcome those challenges.