Demystifying ACT: A Practical Guide for Therapists

Learn how to apply ACT principles in your everyday practice.  Earn 5 CE/CME credits.

What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

By DJ Moran, PhD

This presentation is an excerpt from the online course “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy“.


  • ACT is a research-based intervention that increases psychological flexibility with a mindfulness approach and behavior change strategies.
  • Used to help treat anxiety, psychosis, depression, substance abuse and many more clinical issues.
  • Has had impact on work productivity, sports performance and academic achievement.


Greetings and welcome to Demystifying ACT, an introduction to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Before we begin, I’m going to invite you to assume a nice relaxed posture and take a nice relaxing inhale followed by a comfortable exhale.

Center yourself. In other words, focus your attention on why you want to learn about this material. What brought you to this opportunity to be trained in ACT? What are your motivations for learning this approach? Why have you chosen to spend your time doing this training activity? What personal values brought you to this experience? See if you can articulate your motivations to yourself.

And perhaps write them down, type them into your computer or make a mental note. You are here now learning about ACT perhaps because it resonates with your personal and professional values. Please keep those values in mind throughout our time together. Values help motivate people for a committed lasting behavioral change.

Hi. My name is DJ Moran and I appreciate you joining me on this training journey. Before actually getting into the material, I hope you will allow me a short introduction. I’ve been involved in the ACT community for over two decades starting in graduate school. I earned my Ph.D. in Clinical and School Psychology from Hofstra University which is right outside New York City which is where I grew up. And I’m also a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst.

Back in 1994, I saw Robyn Walser and Steven Hayes, two pioneers in ACT, give a presentation on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at an Association for Behavioral Analysis Conference. And I was inspired so much that I said, yep, that’s it. This ACT stuff is for me. I want to take the ideas that were presented on behavior analysis, CBT and mindfulness and blend them together to help reduce suffering and improve quality of living for people and thus started my ACT journey.

I’m a past President and Fellow of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences, the ACBS, which is an organization dedicated to promoting ACT. And I believe it will be helpful to you on your journey to become a better ACT therapist so I hope you will join the association. I’ve supervised over 100 students, won the Outstanding Mentor Award from the Association for Behavioral Analysis and I’ve given over 200 ACT workshops. And I’m really glad to be talking about ACT with you in this training.

Now, I titled this training Demystifying ACT because when you demystify something, you take a difficult or esoteric subject and make it clearer or easier to understand. For as long as I’ve been an ACT therapist, I’ve heard many professionals tell me that ACT seems too complex or difficult for them to put into practice. We’re going to work together in this training to make it simple, accessible and practical for you to use effectively.

Now, for a very simple definition, we will say that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is based on empirically supported principles aiming to improve psychological flexibility by leveraging the influence of mindfulness practice while utilizing evidence-based applied behavioral science. And we’re going to spend some time in this training unpacking this definition of ACT. And if you’ll only learn one thing from me in this training, I will be very disappointed because I want you to learn a whole lot. But if you’ll only learn one thing, please keep in mind that we call the therapy ACT and not A-C-T. It’s been pronounced ACT for decades now.

And to reiterate, ACT is a research-based intervention that increases psychological flexibility with a mindfulness approach and behavior change strategies. The approach has been used to help treat psychological concerns such as anxiety, psychosis, depression, substance abuse and many more clinical issues. And it also has had an effect on subclinical issues such as work productivity, sports performance and academic achievement. So let’s take a closer look at this powerful and effective applied behavioral science.

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