cbt for anxiety

Benefits of Combining Cognitive CBT with Acceptance & Commitment Therapy ACT in Treating Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues affecting millions of people worldwide. Effective treatments are essential for managing this condition and improving the quality of life for those who suffer from it. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are two of the most widely used and evidence-based approaches for treating anxiety. While each therapy is effective on its own, combining CBT and ACT can offer even more significant benefits. This blog explores how the integration of these two therapies can provide a comprehensive and powerful approach to managing anxiety.

Understanding Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a structured, time-limited therapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Developed by Aaron Beck in the 1960s, CBT is based on the premise that negative thought patterns contribute to emotional distress and maladaptive behaviors. By identifying and challenging these negative thoughts, individuals can alter their emotional responses and behaviors, leading to improved mental health.

Key Components of CBT:

  • Cognitive Restructuring: Identifying and challenging distorted or unhelpful thoughts.
  • Behavioral Activation: Encouraging engagement in rewarding activities.
  • Exposure Therapy: Gradually confronting feared situations to reduce anxiety.
  • Skills Training: Developing coping strategies and problem-solving skills.

Understanding Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, developed by Steven C. Hayes in the 1980s, is a mindfulness-based approach that encourages individuals to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or avoiding them. ACT emphasizes living in accordance with one’s values and taking committed action toward meaningful goals, even in the presence of uncomfortable emotions or thoughts.

Key Components of ACT:

  • Acceptance: Embracing thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Cognitive Defusion: Changing the way individuals relate to their thoughts.
  • Mindfulness: Focusing on the present moment.
  • Values Clarification: Identifying and committing to personal values.
  • Committed Action: Taking action in line with one’s values.

The Synergy of CBT and ACT

Combining CBT and ACT can create a more robust and comprehensive treatment approach for anxiety. Here are some key benefits of integrating these two therapies:

1. Comprehensive Treatment Approach

CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, while ACT emphasizes acceptance and mindfulness. Integrating these approaches addresses both the cognitive and emotional aspects of anxiety, providing a more holistic treatment plan. This dual approach helps individuals understand and manage their anxiety from multiple perspectives.

2. Balanced Focus on Change and Acceptance

One of the main strengths of combining CBT and ACT is the balanced focus on change and acceptance. CBT aims to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, while ACT promotes acceptance of thoughts and feelings. This balance reduces the pressure to change immediately and encourages individuals to accept themselves and their experiences, which can be particularly helpful for those with severe or chronic anxiety.

3. Enhanced Emotional Regulation

Both CBT and ACT offer effective strategies for managing emotions, but they do so in different ways. CBT helps individuals reframe negative thoughts that contribute to emotional distress, while ACT teaches acceptance and mindfulness techniques to observe and experience emotions without becoming overwhelmed. Together, these approaches can enhance emotional regulation and resilience.

4. Greater Emphasis on Values and Meaning

ACT places a strong emphasis on living in alignment with personal values, which can provide a sense of purpose and direction in life. While CBT primarily focuses on symptom reduction, integrating ACT encourages individuals to consider what is truly important to them and take meaningful actions toward those values. This can lead to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life, even in the presence of anxiety.

5. Versatility in Treating Various Anxiety Disorders

CBT and ACT have both been proven effective in treating a wide range of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and more. Combining these therapies can enhance their effectiveness across different anxiety disorders, providing a versatile and robust treatment approach. For instance, CBT’s structured techniques can be particularly beneficial for specific phobias, while ACT’s acceptance strategies can be useful for generalized anxiety.

6. Encouraging Long-Term Change

Sustainable mental health improvement often requires more than just symptom relief; it involves ongoing personal growth and development. The integration of CBT and ACT promotes long-term change by helping individuals develop a deeper understanding of themselves, their values, and their thought patterns. This comprehensive approach fosters lasting transformation and prevents relapse.

Practical Applications of Combined CBT and ACT for Anxiety

Therapists can integrate CBT and ACT in various ways to maximize the benefits for their clients. Here are some practical applications:

1. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

MBCT combines elements of CBT with mindfulness practices from ACT. This approach is particularly effective for preventing relapse in individuals with recurrent anxiety. By incorporating mindfulness, clients learn to observe their thoughts without judgment, reducing the impact of negative thinking patterns.

2. Exposure and Acceptance

Incorporating ACT’s acceptance strategies into CBT’s exposure therapy can help clients manage anxiety more effectively. For example, during exposure exercises, clients can practice accepting their anxiety and observing it mindfully, which can reduce avoidance behaviors and increase tolerance of distress.

3. Values-Driven Behavioral Activation

Combining CBT’s behavioral activation with ACT’s values clarification can enhance motivation and engagement in meaningful activities. Clients can identify activities that align with their values and use behavioral activation techniques to incorporate these activities into their daily lives.

4. Cognitive Defusion and Thought Challenging

Integrating ACT’s cognitive defusion techniques with CBT’s cognitive restructuring can help clients develop a healthier relationship with their thoughts. By learning to defuse from unhelpful thoughts and challenge their validity, clients can reduce the impact of negative thinking on their emotions and behaviors.


The integration of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy offers a powerful and holistic approach to treating anxiety. By combining the strengths of both therapies, individuals can benefit from a comprehensive, flexible, and personalized treatment plan that addresses their unique needs. This synergy promotes lasting change, enhances emotional regulation, and encourages a values-driven life, ultimately leading to improved mental health and well-being.

For those struggling with anxiety, this integrated approach not only alleviates anxiety symptoms but also fosters personal growth and resilience, paving the way for long-term mental health and happiness.

CBT  & ACT for Anxiety is offfered in the Adelaide Area

Sessions are offered in-person for those living in the Adelaide Area or Payneham or Online Zoom Sessions if preferred. 


Danielle is dedicated to empowering clients to restore a natural state of calm, balance and wellness within themselves.

By adopting a person centred approach Danielle guides each client on their healing journey.

Sessions are conducted in her comfortable and calming treatment room conveniently located in Payneham, South Australia with access to off-street parking. Alternatively clients are able to choose to have sessions online via Zoom in the comfort of their own home.