Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an action-oriented psychotherapy approach developed by psychologist Steven C Hayes in 1980s. It combines cognitive and behavioural approaches. What led Hayes to create ACT was his journey, particularly his struggle with panic attacks. Instead of trying to escape or fix his experiences, he made a courageous decision to accept himself and his emotions. Hayes emphasized three important elements for personal transformation: acceptance, mindfulness, and values. These are concepts that resonate with us because we often find ourselves wanting to change or suppress "negative" emotions. We forget that these emotions are a natural part of our entire life experience. However, ACT invites us to embrace our lives fully and be present by encouraging us to recognize that our emotions, even the ones we label as "unhealthy," are valid and deserve acknowledgement.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) involves the combination of acceptance and mindfulness techniques, whereby acceptance in ACT assists us in embracing our feelings, thoughts, and experiences with openness and a non-judgmental attitude. Instead of running away from difficulties, we learn to face them. By accepting the pain and challenges that arise, we can find the courage to take meaningful action toward a more fulfilling life. Mindfulness helps us focus on the present moment, grounding us in what truly matters. When we practice mindfulness, we become fully engaged in our lives. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy teaches us to embrace acceptance and mindfulness. By cultivating these practices, we can give better commitment towards changing into a more constructive and healthier behaviour that upholds our life goals and values.
How does it work?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) recognizes that struggling to control or eliminate our inner experiences such as unhealthy thoughts, emotions, urges and many more. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’s goal is to improve our mindfulness through involvement in meaningful activities which align with our values. In ACT, we learn to embrace acceptance and engage in meaningful activities that align with our values. By accepting our thoughts and emotions without judgment, we can cultivate psychological flexibility. Avoiding or suppressing these experiences may worsen our mental health in the long run.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) have different goals when it comes to managing inner experiences. CBT focuses on reducing the intensity or frequency of unhealthy inner experiences, while ACT takes a different approach.
Core components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT):
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) encourages us to embrace our inner emotions and thoughts without judgment. Rather than pushing them away or trying to change them, we learn to acknowledge and make space for thoughts and emotions.
2. Cognitive Defusion
In Acceptance and Commitment (ACT), we discover the power to detach ourselves from our thoughts. We observe them without getting entangled or overwhelmed by them. This allows us to respond to challenging or stressful thoughts and feelings in a more empowered way.
3. Being Present
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) emphasizes the importance of mindfulness and being fully present in the moment. By cultivating awareness, we learn to observe our emotions and thoughts without judgment. This clarity helps us gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, leading towards behaviour change.
4. Self as Context
In the process of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), we are encouraged to see ourselves as more than just our thoughts, emotions, and experiences. It allows us to develop a transcendent sense of self and observe our inner experiences without complete identification.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) enables us to explore and clarify our core beliefs, values and principles that define what truly matters to us. Identifying our values and beliefs serves as a compass, guiding us to set meaningful goals and make decisions aligned with our deepest desires as we would start to strive to live according to our principles.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) emphasizes purposeful and committed actions which are concrete and aligned and driven by our own values. Commitment in ACT involves setting specific goals, gradually facing challenging thoughts, and consistently behaving in ways that reflect our values, leading to positive change in our lives.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has now been one of the widely utilized types of psychotherapy by many certified therapists. ACT can be applied to various mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues, social anxiety, and many more. Trained therapists deliver ACT to their clients extensively through individual therapy sessions and sometimes as a part of group therapy sessions. ACT techniques are also often applied along with other psychotherapy approaches to elevate our psychological flexibility and overall well-being.
Key Benefits of ACT:
1. Increased Psychological Flexibility
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) empowers us to adapt and respond effectively to the challenges we encounter, fostering a greater improvement of psychological flexibility. Through ACT, we learn to acknowledge and embrace our feelings and emotions, allowing us to take actions that are aligned with our core beliefs and values instead of being driven solely by our inner experiences. This shift in perspective can help reduce the intensity of mental health concerns, such as stress, anxiety, and other concerns as well. ACT allows us to manage our thoughts and emotions better, leading towards improved mental health.
2. Improved Emotional Regulation
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy assists us in developing skills to regulate our emotions gradually. We learn to observe and respond to our emotions with greater flexibility and balance. By cultivating acceptance and mindfulness, we can reduce emotional reactivity and enhance our overall emotional well-being. With improved emotional regulation, we experience a positive ripple effect in our interpersonal relationships. ACT benefits us by improving interpersonal relationships, as we are able to respond compassionately to others through acceptance and mindfulness, leading towards improvement in our relationship dynamics.
3. Enhanced Self-Awareness
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy also facilitates our development in a sense of self-awareness towards our feelings, thoughts, and experiences in a non-judgmental manner. It allows us to understand our inner experiences such as emotions, thoughts, and behaviours better, resulting in self-discovery and personal growth. In addition, we are able to feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment through ACT, as it assists us in identifying the values that are important to us and guides us to set meaningful goals based on our personal needs and purpose.
4. Long-Term Resilience
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy facilitates us to embrace the challenges of life with a mindful presence. This enables us to develop flexibility and adaptability, equipping us with healthier coping skills to navigate difficult times while remaining true to our personal values. In practising ACT, we become better prepared to face the obstacles that come our way. We maintain a sense of resilience that helps us during hardships and navigate distressing life situations.
Thus, it is also crucial to note that the effectiveness of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach may differ for each individual based on the severity of their mental health concern, specific goals and need to attend therapy. It is recommended to consult a trained and licensed mental health therapist for further assistance and consultation.