The Role of Acceptance And Commitment Therapy In Treating Social Anxiety Disorder

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is effective in treating social anxiety disorder as well as many other mental health conditions.  Acceptance and commitment therapy, more commonly known as ACT, was developed by Steven Hayes in the 1980s.  Sharing many of the same values as Buddhist philosophy, the goal of ACT is not to eliminate negative thoughts but to accept them.  Especially if you’re looking for a therapist in Sacramento, or anywhere else in California, to help you with your social anxiety disorder, you should take the time to learn more about ACT, the benefits, and how it works.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) about 12% of adults will experience social anxiety disorder (1).
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy differs from other treatment methods that are popular in the west.  While we normally focus on symptom reduction, ACT understands that getting rid of some symptoms can actually cause additional problems.  ACT argues that even your normal everyday thoughts and beliefs can become destructive.
Language is a main component of ACT.  ACT theorists argue that language is a main reason for our suffering.  Language can be the basis for many of our negative thoughts and feelings including deception, prejudice, fear, and self-criticism.  Taking control of your language can help to improve your self esteem, reduce symptoms of social anxiety disorder, and help to improve your relationships throughout your life.

What are the primary functions of ACT?

There are six main core principles of ACT.  The six core principles help to reduce the influence that social anxiety disorder has over you.  Your therapist may use metaphors and a host of other tools to help you through your journey with ACT.  These core principles are integral to the therapist’s approach.

The symptoms of social anxiety disorder can be very intrusive and wreak havoc throughout your life.  According to the NIMH,in those patients that have social anxiety disorder, about 30% have severe symptoms (2).  Working with an ACT therapist can help to dramatically reduce symptoms.  Here are the six main core principles of ACT.

Cognitive Defusion

The first step involves separating yourself.  You’ll work to separate yourself from the thoughts, feelings, images, memories, urges, and sensations.  You will learn to perceive your thoughts and memories as bits of languages and images rather than objective truths, facts, or rules that must be obeyed.  While we all will have these experiences, the goal of ACT is to lessen their influence.  A common idea of ACT is that working on your anxiety may be making your anxiety worse.


Acceptance isn’t the understanding that there won’t ever be anything negative in your life.  Acceptance is allowing the negative or unpleasant symptom that you’re experiencing to come and go without letting them control you.

The therapist will help you to focus on letting the symptoms and experiences pass over you instead of controlling them.  When working on social anxiety disorder, your therapist will help you to differentiate the normal feelings of anxiety that you may be experiencing from secondary symptoms that can be affecting your everyday life.

Contact with the present moment

The ability to be in the present moment can be extremely helpful when working with Social Anxiety Disorder.  Mindfulness is an important tool that you will work with your therapist.  You’ll focus more on the present than being lost in your thoughts.

The Observing Self

Your therapist will also help you to be more cognizant about yourself and your thinking.  You’re in charge of your thinking.  This can help to separate intrusive thoughts from truth.


Knowing what’s important in life for you is a big step.  This can help you to reprioritize, reinvigorate, and plan for your future.  Understanding your values can help you to build a base for you to move forward.  Especially if you’re suffering from a Social Anxiety Disorder, your therapist may work with you to build better relationships and work on social situations.

Committed Action


The next step is to put your values into practice.  Your therapist will help you to commit yourself to your new held values.  This could be distressing and difficult but your therapist will help you to work through it.  This involves setting goals, taking the steps to meet them, and then following up with your therapist.How ACT differs from CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular therapy type and can be effective for Social Anxiety Disorder that has been around for more than 50 years.  CBT focuses on our thoughts and core beliefs that we hold dear that may be getting in our way.

There are a few main differences between CBT and ACT.  Where CBT therapists are more like teachers, ACT therapists are more like guides.  Both CBT and ACT actively work on the awareness of your thoughts but differently.  CBT focuses on the reduction or elimination and ACT focuses on acceptance.

How can SilverLake Psychology help?

SilverLake Psychology is an established, diverse therapy group in Sacramento and throughout California.  We have hundreds of therapists available and convenient appointment times.  We specialize in working with those with Social Anxiety Disorder and have dozens of therapists who specialize in it!  Our therapists have many different approaches, including ACT and CBT, and can help to improve your life!

Silver Lake Psychology offers convenient appointment times, easy billing and we work with dozens of insurance companies.  We make working with us easy!  Our Matching Experts will take the time to listen to your story, understand your needs, and will custom match you with a therapist that best meets your needs!


If you’re suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder, working with an ACT therapist can help!  ACT is an effective treatment method that can help you move towards acceptance of everyday stress and help to manage your symptoms, especially those regarding social situations.


Happy couple reconciling at therapy session in therapists office