ACT has utilized a significant scientific framework and evidence base to approach clinical behavioural change. See, for example, A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Towards What Matters, by Stephan Hayes (2019). A basic assumption of ACT is that suffering is a normal and unavoidable part of human experience and that it is that people’s attempts to control or avoid their own painful experiences lead to much long-term suffering. ACT helps people learn ways to let go of the struggle with emotional and somatic pain, be more mindful, get clarity on what really matters to them, and to commit to living full, vibrant lives.
ACT uses mindfulness practices to help people become aware of and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion toward painful thoughts and feelings. Additionally, ACT heavily emphasizes the role of values to help people create meaningful lives. ACT is centered on such questions as “What do you really want your life to be about?” or “If you lived in a world where you could have your life be about anything, what would it be?”
BT focuses on an individual’s learned, or conditioned, behaviour and how this can be changed. The approach assumes that if a behaviour can be learned, then it can be unlearned (or reconditioned), therefore, it is useful for dealing with issues such as phobias or addictions.
Behaviour therapy helps a person understand how changing his or her behaviour can lead to positive changes in his/her life. Often, the focus is on helping the person engage in positive or value-consistent behaviours. The clinical team works with the client to examine the barriers to or difficulties in engaging in these types of behaviours. The clinicians also teach the client to analyze their own behaviour, as well as the effects their behaviours have on mood and other areas of life. This approach tends to be more time-limited and focused on a specific problem that the person is encountering.