Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based treatment that can help you develop mindfulness skills that promote psychological flexibility. ACT can also help you to incorporate the use of values to guide behavioral change.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is an extension of relational frame theory, which is a theory that specializes in how people learn and understand language. The goal of ACT is to help provide you with the opportunity to learn how to use mindfulness to experience the many emotions of life.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy was developed by Steven Hayes, Ph.D., and builds on the “third ware” tradition of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with the use of mindfulness and acceptance strategies to build psychological flexibility.
One of the core tenets of ACT is accepting one’s painful emotions, thoughts, memories, body sensations, and present circumstances in an effort to make suffering optional. Suffering is viewed as non-acceptance, resistance, or avoidance of painful realities in living.
How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Works
There are six core processes that make up Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, all of which contribute to the overall function of the therapy itself. These six processes are:
- Cognitive defusion. Cognitive defusion is the process of examining your problematic thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and urges. ACT helps to neutralize them through repetitious behaviors and humorous methods.
- Acceptance. Many people who require Acceptance and Commitment Therapy often have difficulty allowing their thoughts to flow effortlessly, as they desire to maintain control over what they are thinking about at all times. By working with a therapist, you can begin allowing yourself to have a free flow of thoughts without fearing and/or battling them when they occur.
- Contact with the present moment. Contact with the present moment — otherwise known as mindfulness — is often practiced in ACT, as it helps you develop a strong sense of awareness. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy cannot work without you being willing to keep contact with the present moment, even if it is full of painful thoughts, feelings, and urges.
- Observing the self. Acting as the reflective part of the mindfulness process, observing the self encourages you to develop and nurture a strong sense of being and contact with the present moment.
- Values. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a value-based treatment, asking you to use some of your core values. ACT also asks you to develop new values based on how you want to be remembered and how you see their life without overidentification with mental illness and problems.
- Committed action. As with all forms of therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy generally comes to a close with the last step, which is to set positive goals that are realistic and attainable for you to achieve through your established values.
From start to finish, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is designed to help you realize your flaws, examine your full potential, and put in place methods of care that will help you carry out successful action to benefit your overall wellbeing.
What Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Treats
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is helpful for a wide variety of people, especially those who are suffering from a psychological or behavioral disorder. Some of the most common disorders treated with ACT include the following:
- Personality disorders, including Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Dual diagnosis of an addiction and mental health disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma
- Mood disorders, such as Bipolar Disorder and major depression
- Schizophrenia and other thought disorders
- Chronic pain
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is highly effective when treating these particular disorders, as it helps clients accept their psychological situation and commit themselves to their own personal recovery.
Evidence Behind Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
In the past, small studies of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy programs have had conflicting results because of the extremely small sample. As of 2011, ACT has gained more attention and has been tested in a more detailed manner.
The American Psychological Association labeled ACT an empirically validated treatment for “modest research support” in depression and “strong research support” in chronic pain. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has also reviewed numerous studies pertaining to ACT’s effectiveness and, as a result, considers Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to be an evidence-based therapy.
Though Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is still considered to be a newer form of evidence-based therapy, it is quickly gaining attention for its ability to help change destructive behaviors in individuals struggling with behavioral disorders.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at Clearview Women’s Center
At Clearview Women’s Center, you will participate in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy groups that can help you to develop a new set of values to overcome the negativity you experience in your life. ACT is just one of the many therapies you will use in order to make sure you have the best chance at recovery from your disorder.
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