RFT and ACT

What is relational frame theory?

Relational frame theory (RFT) is a psychological framework that seeks to explain complex human behaviour by focusing on how humans derive meaning and make sense of the world through relational responding. It was developed by Steven C. Hayes and colleagues in the late 20th century as an extension of behaviour analysis and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

At its core, RFT proposes that human language and cognition are based on the ability to relate stimuli in a meaningful way. It suggests that humans are not only capable of understanding individual stimuli but also the relationships between stimuli. These relationships can be based on various dimensions such as similarity, opposition, comparison, temporal order, and hierarchical structure.

RFT emphasises the role of relational responding in language, cognition, and problem-solving. It suggests that the ability to form and manipulate relations between stimuli is crucial for human cognitive processes such as categorisation, conceptualisation, reasoning, and perspective-taking. RFT views language as a system of relating words, symbols, and thoughts, rather than a set of discrete words with fixed meanings.

One key concept in RFT is that of derived relational responding. Derived relations occur when new relationships between stimuli emerge as a result of previously established relations. For example, if a person learns that “A is like B” and “B is like C,” they can derive the relationship that “A is like C” without explicit training. Derived relational responding allows for the formation of complex language and cognitive abilities.

RFT also introduces the concept of arbitrarily applicable relational responding (AARR). AARR refers to the ability to relate stimuli based on arbitrary rules or contextual cues. This ability allows humans to engage in flexible thinking and behaviour, as they can respond to new situations based on previously learned relational patterns.

Are RFT and ACT the same thing?

Relational frame theory (RFT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are related concepts, but they are not the same thing. RFT is the theoretical framework that seeks to explain how humans derive meaning and make sense of the world through relational responding. It focuses on the role of relational responding in language, cognition, and behaviour. On the other hand, ACT is a therapeutic approach that is based on RFT. It is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that aims to help individuals develop psychological flexibility and improve their well-being. ACT incorporates RFT principles and techniques to help individuals accept their thoughts and feelings, commit to their values, and take action towards a meaningful life.

While RFT provides the theoretical foundation for ACT, ACT builds upon RFT by integrating other therapeutic techniques and principles. ACT incorporates mindfulness practices, acceptance strategies, and behavioural change techniques to help individuals develop a more flexible and adaptive response to their thoughts and emotions.

Upcoming live training

Mastering ACT featured image
Two 3 hour sessions (6 CE credits)
Mastering ACT

Robyn Walser

Read more
Frame by frame featured image
1.5 hours (1.5 APA CEs / BACB CEUs)
Frame by frame

Siri Ming

Read more
Introducing acceptance and commitment therapy featured image
12 hours (12 APA CEs / BACB CEUs)
Introducing acceptance and commitment therapy

Dr. M. Joann Wright

Read more

Resource hub

Related to your search/filter:

Resource hub

On-demand training

Related to your search/filter:

On-demand training

Blog: Latest insights into ACT

Related to your search/filter:

Blog: Latest insights into ACT

Knowledge hub

Related to your search/filter:

Knowledge hub

Join our newsletter to be the first to receive updates on our upcoming events, exclusive free resources and other valuable goodies. Sign up now and embark on your ACT journey with us!

You can unsubscribe at anytime. Read our full privacy policy here: Privacy policy