Best ACT Books.

Tuesday, 17 Nov 2015 @ 5:36 PM. By Elizabeth Han.

What exactly is ACT?

ACT is not the easiest therapy to explain. With CBT I say, “We change your thoughts to change how you feel.” With DBT I say, “We help you learn to cope with very very strong emotions.” Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is, of course, built on acceptance of what already is and commitment to valued action, but what does that really mean?? And how is it different from everything else?

ACT derives from Relational Frame Theory.

The theory of ACT is built on Relational Frame Theory, which is also a whole other topic unto itself, but which I’ll break down very quickly.

To start with, you can think of it as a theory about language — the human ability to recognize relationships between words and ideas causes suffering. Maybe you see a beautiful sunset one day. it’s stunning, really. But on a day a long time ago when something awful happened to you, there was also a beautiful sunset. And even though you love sunsets, every time that you see a sunset or read about a sunset or hear someone speaking about a sunset your brain automatically associates with it some pain as well.

Your entire existence is modified by a virtual world constructed in language, and it can be difficult to contact the present moment (in other words, practice mindfulness) when ensconced in that world. ACT aims to bring you out of that world. Open you up to the present. Figure out where you need to go to live a fulfilling, value-driven life. The 6 pillars of ACT are summarized in the diagram above.

Here’s how to find out more.

My interest in ACT has led to exploration of many books on the topic. Fortunately, there are several that are amazing introductions to the therapy that you can use on your own or with a therapist. These are described below.

1. The Happiness Trap

Link to Amazon

Russ Harris breaks down ACT like no other. I found ACT so intimidating to get into, but Harris takes it at a slow, leisurely pace, with short chapters written in plain language that focus on you, the reader. Harris knows there’s no good in getting bogged down in theory if you’re not practicing the skills and deriving meaning from the therapy.

By the end, all of the points of the ACT hexagon have been explained but, like me, you may find yourself wanting to read it again. It’s that engaging!

Price: ~ $10 paperback
Excerpts: The Happiness Trap

2. ACT Made Simple

Link to Amazon
madesimpAnother book written by Russ Harris (and the inventor of ACT, Steven Hayes!), ACT Made Simple uses a slightly more advanced vernacular than The Happiness Trap with a larger focus on theory while still remaining immensely readable. The inclusion of sample conversations between therapists and clients, illustrating various challenges and workarounds, is also a feature that makes this text really stand out.

It is worth nothing that this book is aimed at therapists not clients, but any motivated person can definitely pick this up and get a lot from it.

Price: ~ $20 paperback
Excerpts: ACT Made Simple

3. Get Out Of Your Mind And Into Your Life

Link to Amazon
getoutGet Out Of Your Mind… is structured as a workbook replete with exercises to help you get a foothold into the techniques of the therapy. If you don’t know how to do mindfulness for example, no problem, this book takes it from the basics. My favourite part is the introduction on Relational Frame Theory, explaining in simple terms with helpful pictures what we mean when we say that language is the cause of a lot of suffering.

While I still prefer The Happiness Trap as the first book to pick up on ACT for newbies, this one is a favourite of a lot of my patients and is worth your time.

Price: ~ $20 paperback
Excerpts: Get Out Of Your Mind And Into Your Life