What is Acceptance in ACT? (and how do we use it in Coaching?)

Woman Coaching Client
Acceptance is about acknowledging that uncomfortable thoughts and feelings are part of a fully lived life and Acceptance encourages you to willingly come into contact with these feelings as they could be in service of your values. It is important to note here that it is not giving up to negative emotions or feelings or being passive. It is an active, ongoing stance that promotes a reduction in any unnecessary struggle to try and move away from things that are actually happening - things that at at times you can’t change.

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ACT or Acceptance & Commitment Therapy introduces 6 processes that lead to psychological flexibility. One of these is Acceptance, a core concept for ACT practitioners.

As part of our ICF coach training certification we cover ACT on our Level 1 Diploma in Integrative Coaching

This post focuses on Acceptance, not because it’s the most important or a starting point as all process are equal, but we find that the Acceptance part (which is also in the name of this practice!) can be tricky to fully grasp.

So what is Acceptance in ACT?

  • Note that the definition of Acceptance is bound to context – we are talking about acceptance in a wellbeing context. So for instance let’s do an anology, think of the word bat and notice what comes to mind. [PAUSE before you read further] It might make you think of a bat used in a baseball game or maybe the animal. You might have even thought about how people bat their eyelids! So in essence the word bat can be used to describe different things and the context is needed to understand the meaning of that word. The same applies to Acceptance. You might have your own definition of the word acceptance but in the context of ACT it means actively contacting psychological experiences directly, fully, without a needless defence. I like calling it an ACTIVE acceptance.
  • Acceptance is about acknowledging that uncomfortable thoughts and feelings are part of a fully lived life and Acceptance encourages you to willingly come into contact with these feelings as they could be in service of your values. It is important to note here that it is not giving up to negative emotions or feelings or being passive. It is an active, ongoing stance that promotes a reduction in any unnecessary struggle to try and move away from things that are actually happening – things that at at times you can’t change.
  • Remember: what we focus on is accepting psychological experiences – emotions, sensations, urges, flashbacks and other private events. We are not talking about public experiences.

 

Are you looking to become a Professional ICF Coach? 
We have number of ICF Coach Training Certification including our Diploma in Integrative Coaching and the Advanced Diploma in Integrative Coaching.

Become also offers bespoke mentoring programmes to help you develop your coaching skills. Our mentoring is available on a 1-1 basis or as a group.

How can we use Acceptance principles with our Coaching Clients?

The idea of Acceptance is to develop your ability to accept things like your psychological experiences so that you build the courage to change the things that you can including action and behaviour.

Think of this example that can happen with coaching clients – imagine a client says that they’re feeling nervous about going to a party where they don’t know a lot of people, but they really want to go.

You can support the client take a step back and notice what’s important to them in this scenario. From their words we can tell that the client wants to go to the party. A question that you could ask is “how can you still go to the party, if you want to, and accept what is showing up within you?”

Questions like this help develop psychological flexibility in clients. You can also support the client understand that this is natural, i.e. feeling a bit nervous going to a party where you don’t know anyone. Other people might be equally nervous! By helping the client notice and explore they can choose to still go to the party whilst still maybe experience some nerves is a healthier, more flexible way to behave. 

There are other elements of Acceptance & Commitment Coaching. You can read this other blog that we have about this.

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