Book Review: ‘The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide for Breaking Free from Anxiety, Phobias, and Worry’

Despite its long title, Drs. John Forsyth and George Eifert’s The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to Breaking Free from Anxiety, Phobias, and Worry Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy details a rather simple path to better mental health. Instead of advocating for a methodology that involves altering the kinds of thinking that can lead to a relapse into a state of debilitating anxiety or depression, Mindfulness makes the case for the relatively new practice of acceptance and commitment therapy. But is ACT all it’s cracked up to be?

Zen Psychology 

In greatly simplified terms, ACT prescribes that sufferers treat their mental disorders by adjusting their reactions to certain stress-inducing situations through the practice of mindfulness, the state of being open and present at all times while also being aware of, but not controlled by, one’s emotions. As opposed to other therapies that recommend a rigorous interrogation of our feelings, Forsyth and Eifert suggest accepting one’s negative feelings and forgiving ourselves for the having them in the first place. The book argues, in sometimes exhaustive detail, that trying to control or banish such thoughts is ultimately self-defeating and will only cause more stress. With its affirmative language, guided meditation exercises and focus on living a meaningful, vibrant life, Mindfulness seems like an introduction to Zen Buddhism than a psychology textbook.

Three Steps to a New You

Broken up into three sections, the book first examines the nature of anxiety, refutes certain “myths” surrounding the disorder and introduces the core principles of acceptance and commitment therapy. The second section goes deeper into ACT and puts forth the notion that by distancing ourselves from emotions while not denying their existence, we exert a greater degree of control over our lives. Finally, The Mindfulness lays out a framework in which ACT practices can be integrated into one’s life in a way that will lead to a long-term stability of one’s mental health. Those are obviously lofty goals, but the book publisher’s website is full of praise, from both afflicted people who have benefited from its teachings and mental health professionals alike.

A Controversial From of Thearpy 

As one would expect from a text that promises an almost miraculous treatment for anxiety, this is something of a catch involved. Acceptance and commitment therapy is the subject of some controversy. Some skepticism is to be expected with a kind of therapy that only went into practice in the 1980s. However, several notable figures within the mental health community have argued that ACT doesn’t have markedly different results from cognitive behavioral therapy. As such, it’s advisable to adjust one’s expectations regarding the book’s ability to affect significant life changes.

The Cost of Improved Mental Health 

With those caveats in mind, The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety does have its merits. For those who are living with debilitating stress, but are unfamiliar with CBT, the book might well prove to be revelatory. Many of the techniques prescribed in the book, such as guided meditation, have been proven to greatly reduce stress. As with any self-help book, Mindfulness will not help every person who reads it, but for those whom it will offer some measure of relief, $13.99 is a small price to pay for peace of mind.