Psychological Flexibility



Last Update: 12/Jun/2023

Researchers and clinicians postulate that psychological flexibility is the ‘super skill’ of emotional wellbeing. Research has found that psychological flexibility is associated with improved quality of life and wellbeing, and is a primary determinant of mental health and behavioural effectiveness (Bond, et al. 2013). Psychological flexibility allows individuals to become aware of, and embrace what they are experiencing right now – the good and the bad, acknowledge it, and choose their response to it with the bigger picture in mind. As a result, feelings and thoughts have less power to dictate their behaviour and they gain more control over their lives. In addition, there is a growing body of research suggesting that psychological flexibility can have a protective effect on a range of psychological disorders (Powers, Vörding, & Emmelkamp, 2009; Ruiz, 2010).

Psychological flexibility is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which provides a framework to promote the psychological skills that are associated with positive psychological functioning and improved emotional wellbeing (Hayes et al., 1999). ACT aims to enhance a person’s psychological flexibility to enable them to live a life that is fulfilling (Ciarrochi, Bilich, & Godsell, 2010). There are six core ACT processes (i.e., acceptance, difusion, contact with the present moment, self as context, values, and committed action) that are intertwined and interrelated. The six processes can be developed either together or separately to improve psychological flexibility (Viskovich & Pakenham, 2018). In brief, psychological flexibility allows the person to calibrate their responses to the here-and-now situational demands; to focus their attention and direct their energy effectively, to be able to take the long-term perspective, and behave in ways that honour their core values, facilitates the attainment of meaningful goals and improves their emotional wellbeing (Hayes et al., 2011).