Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, known as “ACT” is a mindfulness-based behavioral therapy that emphasizes acceptance as a way to deal with negative thoughts, feelings, symptoms or circumstances. It also encourages increased commitment to healthy, constructive activities that uphold your values or goals. ACT gets its name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. ACT is based in a contextual theory of language and cognition known as relational frame theory and makes use of a number of therapeutic strategies, many of which are borrowed from other approaches.
How long is the duration of the therapy?
ACT usually is considered as a short term therapy meaning that it is designed to be used over the course of only few sessions with therapist. ACT sessions may typically last between 8 to a16 and are 50-60 minutes in length. The overall duration and intensity of the therapy can vary depending on the needs of the client or the practice of the treatment provider.
How does ACT help?
ACT teaches mindfulness skills to help individuals live and behave in ways consistent with personal values while developing psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility is usually defined as a person’s ability to stay in contact with the present moment and choose behaviors appropriate to their situation and values, even while experiencing unpleasant thoughts or feelings. This is an important part of developing resilience. With ACT, a client does not try to control, avoid, or feel guilty about painful emotions and past experiences. Instead, ACT encourages the client to embrace, learn from, and accept their thoughts and feelings while working to change behavior. There are six core processes involved in ACT:
🔵 Acceptance – This means allowing your inner thoughts and feelings to occur without trying to change them or ignore them. Acceptance is an active process.
🔵 Cognitive defusion – Cognitive defusion is the process of separating yourself from your inner experiences. This allows you to see thoughts simply as thoughts, stripped of the importance that your mind adds to them.
🔵 Self as context – This involves learning to see your thoughts about yourself as separate from your actions.
🔵 Being present – ACT encourages you to stay mindful of your surroundings and learn to shift your attention away from internal thoughts and feelings.
🔵 Values – These are the areas of your life that are important enough to you to motivate action.
🔵 Commitment – This process involves changing your behavior based on principles covered in therapy.What can I expect from ACT?
Acceptance and commitment therapy typically starts with an assessment of what the patient wants. Assessment includes identifying all the things the patient has done to try to achieve their aims and how well these have worked in the short and long term. ACT therapists particularly seek to identify patterns of trying to control or avoid uncontrollable internal experiences, especially those that disrupt valued living. ACT can involve a wide range of techniques. A few common activities you might encounter in sessions include:
🔵 Observing your thoughts – Your therapist will help you learn to listen to your existing self-talk and observe how it might be interfering with acceptance.
🔵 Meditation and other mindfulness practice – ACT is very closely linked to mindfulness. You may use meditation, breathing exercises, or mindful movement to gain more awareness of yourself and your thoughts in the moment.
🔵 Defusion strategies – In ACT, defusion strategies are used to reduce the emotional charge around a painful thought or memory. This might mean learning to notice how a thought makes you feel physically and emotionally, then experimenting with different thoughts that might feel more positive.
🔵 Activities to identify values and goals – Your therapist will likely give you tools to help you define personal values and goals that can guide your choices going forward.
🔵 Self as context – In ACT, self as context is the idea that you are not the same as your experiences. Rather, you exist separately from the events of your life. Learning to realize this can make it easier to detach from the pain of difficult experiences.
🔵 Exercises for self-compassion – Your therapist may guide you through activities to help you emphasize your strengths, accept your weaknesses, and allow yourself to be imperfect.
- Which mental health issues does ACT help with?
ACT has been used to treat or manage a variety of behavioral health concerns as well as manage physical conditions such as chronic pain and diabetes. Some of the mental health issues treated with ACT is:
🔵 Social Anxiety Disorder
🔵 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
🔵 Test anxiety
🔵 Workplace stress
- How is ACT different from other therapies?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy all share a common foundation of focusing on behavior change. One aspect of ACT that is unique and different from other therapies is the focus on personal values. In ACT, clients are encouraged to identify their personal values and use these as a compass to guide more effective actions and behaviors. The central focus on personal values is not found in other therapies.
- Getting the most out of ACT
- In order for therapy to be effective, your therapist must be someone whom you like and trust. Therapy is a serious endeavour, so it is crucial to consider carefully who you choose to work with.
- Share more than just the facts. By sharing your feelings and thoughts around the topic, you will assist your therapist in getting a full grasp of what you are saying about the subject.
- Make sure you do your homework in timely manner. If your therapist has given you to practice mindfulness exercises or other techniques at home, it is advisable to do your homework.
- Do not miss your therapy sessions. A missed session is a loss to everyone. When you don’t have consistency with sessions, it can be much harder to get that comfort you strive for and the effectiveness you want.
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