Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as a Treatment for Problematic Pornography Viewing

What is ACT Therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an action-oriented approach to psychotherapy that has its roots in traditional behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Clients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their inner emotions when using ACT therapy skills. Instead, they accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward in their lives. Through this understanding, clients begin to accept their issues and struggles and commit to the necessary changes in their behavior, regardless of life situation or feelings.

Why is ACT so powerful for pornography viewing?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is one of the few research supported treatments for problematic pornography viewing. In a recent randomized clinical trial, individuals were able to reduce their viewing of pornography on average by over 90% after participating in 12 sessions of ACT.

ACT is a transdiagnostic treatment that has been found efficacious for a wide range of problems across over 300 randomized controlled trials including compulsive disorders such as pornography viewing. ACT provides a comprehensive framework for addressing core pathological processes underlying problematic pornography viewing including psychological inflexibility (rigid adherence to inner experiences including urges, thoughts, emotions;), low trait-mindfulness, emotion dysregulation and moral disapproval.

This four-session 90-minute webinar series (6 hours total) will demonstrate how ACT principles effectively reduce unwanted pornography viewing by cultivating openness to experiencing urges to view pornography and by promoting value-directed behaviors instead of ineffective efforts to control inner experiences and perceived addiction.

Expected Learning Objectives:

Session 1: ACT as a Treatment for Problematic Pornography Viewing

  1. Evaluate ACT treatment outcome studies
  2. Identify four main pathological processes underlying problematic pornography viewing
  3. Present rationale for process-oriented outcomes

Session 2: Orienting to the “Problem”

  1. Demonstrate how to motivate clients through “creative helplessness”
  2. Describe the paradox of control
  3. List strategies for enhancing willingness

Session 3: Cultivating Awareness through Mindfulness

  1. Explain the relationship between language and psychological inflexibility
  2. Practice mindfulness exercises designed to enhance self as context
  3. Summarize key aspects of emotional awareness and regulation

Session 4: Finding Direction through Values

  1. Define framework for healthy sexuality and personal boundaries
  2. Develop plan for establishing connections
  3. Compile exercises for clarifying and pursuing values

About the Presenter

Dr. Cameron Staley is a clinical psychologist who is passionate about counseling, teaching, and training mental health professionals. Cameron completed his psychology internship at Brigham Young University’s Counseling and Psychological Services where he first learned Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as an effective treatment for unwanted pornography viewing. In his TEDx talk, Changing the Narrative Around the Addiction Story, Cameron shares details from his research and counseling experience regarding helpful ways to talk about sexuality and how to effectively reduce unwanted pornography viewing through mindfulness. In an effort to make these principles more accessible, he developed an online self-directed program called LifeAfterPornography based on ACT concepts proven effective in research to reduce unwanted pornography viewing in adults. Cameron also hosts The Life After Series Podcast where he interviews experts, shares insights, and provides education on ways to improve mental and sexual health. Cameron has presented his research on pornography at the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR) and the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) along with peer-reviewed publications in the journals of Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Biological Psychology, Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, and Archives of Sexual Behavior. 

Additional Resources


Bancroft, J., & Vukadinovic, Z. (2004). Sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, sexual impulsivity, or what? Toward a theoretical model. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 225-234.

Bradley, D. F., Grubbs, J. B., Uzdavines, A., Exline, J. J., & Pargament, K. L. (2016). Perceived addiction to internet pornography among religious believers and nonbelievers. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 23(2-3), 225-243.

Crosby, J., & Twohig, M. P. (2016). Acceptance and commitment therapy for problematic internet pornography use: A randomized trial. Behavior Therapy, 47, 355-366.

Griffin, B. J., Worthington Jr., E. L., Leach, J. D., Hook, J. N., Grubbs, J., Exlilne, J. J., & Davis, D. E. (2016). Sexual congruence moderates the associations of hypersexual behavior with spiritual struggle and sexual self-concept. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 23(2-3), 279-295.

Grubbs, J. B., Perry, S. L., Wilt, J. A., & Reid, R. C. (2018). Pornography problems due to moral incongruence: An integrative model with a systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48, 397-415.

Grubbs, J. B., Wilt, J. A., Exline, J. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2018). Predicting pornography use over time: Does self-reported “addiction” matter? Addictive Behaviors, 82, 57–64.

Herring, B. (2017). A framework for categorizing chronically problematic sexual behavior. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 24(4), 242–247.

Levin, M. E., Heninger, S. T., Pierce, B G., & Twohig, M. P. (2017). Examining the feasibility of acceptance and commitment therapy self-help for problematic pornography viewing: results from a pilot open trial. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 25(4) 306-312.

Levin, M. E., Lillis, J., & Hayes, S. C. (2012). When is online pornography viewing problematic among college males? Examining the moderating role of experiential avoidance. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 19, 168–180.

Lew-Starowicz, M. Lewczuk, K., Nowakowska, I., Kraus, S., & Gola, M. (2020). Compulsive sexual behavior and dysregulation of emotion. Sexual Medicine Reviews, 8(2) 191-205.

Reid, R. C., Bramen, J. E., Anderson, A. & Cohen, M. S. (2013). Mindfulness, emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, and stress proneness among hypersexual patients. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 70, 313-321.

Thomas, J., (2016). The development and deployment of the idea of pornography addiction within American evangelicalism. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 23(2-3), 182-195.

Twohig, M. P., & Crosby, J. M. (2010). Acceptance and commitment therapy as a treatment for problematic Internet pornography viewing. Behavior Therapy, 41(3), 285-295.

Wetterneck, C. T., Burgess, A. J., Short, M. B., Smith, A. H., & Cervantes, M. E. (2012). The role of sexual compulsivity, impulsivity, and experiential avoidance in internet pornography use. The Psychological Record, 62, 3.

Wilt, J. A., Cooper, E. B., Grubbs, J. B., Exline, J. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2016). Associations of perceived addiction to internet pornography with religious/spiritual and psychological functioning. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 23(2-3), 260-278.