Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

For many individuals, the attempt to monitor and change the way they think can become, at the least, tiresome, and can often times be frustrating. Proponents of mindfulness encourage individuals to focus on nonjudgmentally being in the here-and-now, fully conscious of their experience instead of being lost in their thoughts. With practice, athletes can learn how to flexibly observe and pay attention to both their inner psychological world and the outer material world without getting too attached to the content of whatever their minds are telling them from one moment to the next. Developing mindfulness skills has been demonstrated to be effective in helping athletes focus on task-relevant cues and perform at consistently high levels.

Human difficulties often arise when individuals fuse with their internal experiences and view their internal thoughts and processes as absolute truths that provide reasons for events and cause them to act in certain ways. As a consequence, rather than acting in ways that reflect a commitment to personal values, athletes may instead choose to avoid or try to control internal experiences they perceive as unacceptable or uncomfortable. By practicing acceptance, individuals become willing to allow their thoughts and feelings to be as they are?whether painful or pleasant?opening up and making room for them and letting them come and go as they naturally do, particularly when that acceptance is in the service of the pursuit of stated values.

Rather than allowing behavior to be dictated by thoughts and feelings, athletes can choose to commit themselves to engaging in behaviors that are in line with what they determine to be important. A vital aspect of this step is identifying values which give individuals a sense of meaning or purpose. Once values are identified, athletes can develop a plan for committed action, taking larger patterns of effective action, guided and motivated by those identified values.

Gardner, F., & Moore, Z. (2006). Clinical sport psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.

Hayes, S.C., Strosahl, K.D., & Wilson, K.G. (2012). Acceptance and commitment therapy: The process and practice of mindful change (2nd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.