Is a therapeutic method so unique that only the therapist in a therapist – client relationship, can use it? When asked this question some therapists will tell you that it is their education and training that make the method of therapy successful. Others may respond with “an untrained person won’t understand it”, “a therapist is required for therapy to take place”, or “a person needing therapy is at risk”. This article will offer a different perspective of therapy and ask you this when experiencing difficulties in life is having a therapist always necessary?

“I are one” a therapist that is. Or, at least I was one for 30+ years before my retirement. Since retirement, I have worked to translate one therapeutic method, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) into a practical self-help approach for people that for whatever reason, don’t use a therapist. These reasons can range from not being able to afford one, no access, not feeling as though a therapist is necessary, denial, social sanctions against therapy, or an understandable distaste for therapy. After trying for a couple of years to adapt the therapeutic methods of Act into a self-help tool, I discovered that I was overlooking something important.

Working with ACT showed me that,in a practical way, an underlying part of ACT, the treatment, was a philosophy for living life life. This discovery led me to look at the therapeutic method of ACT to see if this approach was suitable for adaptation as a philosophy. If successful, this meant moving Act from a therapeutic method to an approach to self-improvement.

As a therapeutic method, ACT puts the therapist and client relationship in a dialectical setting. This is where the therapist and the client share in the treatment process rather than the more traditional approach of the therapist listening and providing feedback. Here the method is the message. ACT treatment:

1. Effectively teaches the client psychological and behavioral skills necessary to deal with painful thoughts and feelings in such a way that they have much less impact and influence.
2. Shows how to see and interpret the truth about those events that have happened rather than denying them.
3. Prepares the client to both accept and live in the present while striving to achieve an end purpose.
4. Helps to clarify what is truly important and meaningful and uses that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate you to change your life.
5. Presents a challenge to preconceived Ideas that imprison the mind.
6. Will put the client in command of their life rather than living a life that becomes repetitive and dull; living on automatic so to speak.

Can these same outcomes occur without a therapist? Yes, and because of the underlying principle behind each of these points is a way of seeing and living life; a philosophy.
This is important to understand, there are instances and psychological conditions that require a therapist and client relationship. These situations are identified by the intensity, impact, and extreme negative results that result from a particular situation or condition. Conversely, if a person is having difficulty with specific areas of their life, relationships, work, dating, parenting, etc. self-improvement and self-help may be the solutions.

Therapeutic approaches often involve doing something to someone else. In other words, for behavioral approaches to work requires a control event (a habit or behavior in need of change), a responder (the person behaving), and a modulator of the behavior (the therapist). While this method works for some it doesn’t translate into a philosophy for life.

Many of these same arguments also apply to other cognitive approaches. Without that other person (the therapist) to interact with, one is left with only the machinations of their own mind.

What constitutes a philosophy for life? It begins with the human quest for wisdom, insight and “truth.” The result of this quest is a well-reasoned set of principles that are applied to our thought, beliefs, and conduct. In the end philosophy is a set of factors called upon to provide meaning to our experiences. The easiest way to understand this is that what you value is a reflection of your philosophy. For the person who is self-centered and unable to be empathetic their philosophy is “me first.” Likewise, the person who is involved in and cares about others has a philosophical belief that being a caring person is an important quality.

ACT is a legitimate, successful, and widely accepted form of therapy. However, I've discovered is that at the heart of ACT is a philosophy. Philosophy meaning a well reasoned set of beliefs that us with a way to interact with our world.

Using this definition the principles used in ACT therapy can be easily applied to living a lifestyle separate from receiving professional therapeutic treatment. ACT, as a philosophy for life is the approach we use in what we teach at ChangingYourMind.nerent way to experience and interpret life.

Author's Bio: 

Retired, Jim Aldrich has over 30 years of professiona experience as a social worker - therapist.

Jim's expertise is in coaching, empowering, supporting and guiding people in learning how to change their minds for the better! If you would like to learn more about his approach or to find additional articles and ebooks go to Changing Your Mind

Jim would like to hear your thoughts on this article. Email him at