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Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

The aim of Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is to do more of what matters to us and have the most fulfilling life we can, despite having difficulties along the way.

  • Do you feel like your life is on hold waiting for the pain to get better?
  • Are you stuck, wishing that the pain would just go away?
  • Do you struggle with the idea of accepting your pain?
  • Do you feel that pain has taken away who you used to be?

ACT could help you live your life again despite having pain.

What is ACT?

The aim of ACT is to do more of what matters to us and have the most fulfilling life we can, despite having difficulties along the way.

Have you ever pushed through pain rather than have the frustration of not finishing a job, even though you know you’ll probably feel worse tomorrow? Do you not do things because of concerns about what others might think, such as staying at home because of embarrassment about using walking aids? These are examples of what can happen because we want to push away difficult feelings such as frustration or embarrassment.

It’s also easy to get caught by unhelpful or self-critical thoughts e.g. “I’ll just do five more minutes”, “I’m letting everybody down”. ACT is a type of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) where we learn to get ‘unhooked’ from unhelpful thoughts.

ACT uses mindfulness skills and meditation and it has two main parts:

Value-based actionMindfulness skills
Deciding what matters most to you Spending more time in the present moment, rather feeling trapped in the past and worrying about the present.
Committing to goals to help you move towards what matters most Unhooking from thoughts which get in the way of you moving towards what matters
  Coping with difficult feelings which might come along when moving towards what matters
  Feeling more resilient


How can ACT help me?

The Gloucestershire Pain Self-Management Service supports people with persistent pain. People attending our service will have been referred by their GP or another Health Care Professional. Elements of ACT are used in our ‘Pain Self-Management Programme’. We may also offer up to six one-to-one sessions focusing on ACT skills. Below are some comments from previous patients about how their ACT-based sessions helped them:

  • ‘Accepting my new self doesn’t mean giving in to my illness but adjustment to my limitations and refocusing on my values’
  • ‘I’ve learned how to accept how things are now and let go of who I used to be, and to find out who I am now’
  • ‘My illness is part of me yet it doesn’t define me; my values do’

Put another way, ACT can help you:

  • Be open
  • Stay present
  • Do what matters

Try ACT out

Meditation is a key part of ACT, helping us to get in touch with the present moment and distancing us from unhelpful thoughts. Our mindfulness webpage has links to several meditation tracks.

Warning: do not listen to any meditation tracks while driving, or doing similar activities that require concentration.

ACT Online Resources

ACT Reading

Copies of these books can be supplied by Gloucestershire Library Services

  • The Happiness Trap (Based on ACT: A revolutionary mindfulness-based programme for overcoming stress, anxiety and depression) by Russ Harris – RRP £9.99.
  • ACTivate Your Life: Using acceptance and mindfulness to build a life that is rich, fulfilling and fun by Joe Oliver, Jon Hill and Eric Morris – RRP £9.99.
  • Living with the Enemy: Coping with the stress of illness using CBT, mindfulness and acceptance by Ray Owen – RRP £16.99.


© Wye valley NHS Trust 2023