Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a therapeutic intervention that teaches clients to stop avoiding and denying their emotions. Instead, clients learn to accept that these feelings are appropriate and important for them to keep moving forward. ACT is an action oriented mindfulness based approach.
Acceptance is not tolerance, rather it is adopting a nonjudgmental stance to embrace the experience of the here and now. Mindfulness allows clients to be aware that they are separate from their thoughts. By practising mindfulness during sessions, clients learn to accept things without attempting to evaluate or change them. Through this, clients become less controlling of their experiences, but perform actions aligned with their values.
Acceptance, mindfulness strategies, commitment and behavioural change strategies causes psychological flexibility to increase. Psychological flexibility refers to being consciously in contact in the present. As a result, behaviour is changed to align with values.
ACT has proven to be helpful for those with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, substance abuse and diabetes.
Six principles of ACT
These principles enable clients to handle painful experiences to create a fulfilling life.
This skill enables clients to perceive thoughts and memories for what they are, rather than objective truths and facts.
Clients learn to experience unpleasant feelings and sensations, rather than trying to suppress them. By allowing these feelings to come and go, they do not lurk or bother us as much.
Self as Context
Self as context refers to being aware of our own experiences without having an attachment to them. There is a sense of containing the thoughts and feelings, but knowing we are not the content of thoughts.
This involves living in the present, instead of worrying about the past or future. The power to act is in the present moment, and focusing on what we are doing brings awareness to the here and now experience.
ACT claims that values (what is meaningful to us) provides us with direction in life. A greater sense of purpose is felt when we are guided by values.
Guided by our chosen values, we are able to carry out actions that contribute to a meaningful life.
ACT is based on relational reframe theory which focuses on language and cognition. RFT claims that using rational ways to refute irrational thoughts is not helpful. Therefore ACT was developed to teach people that psychological pain is normal. People learn to recontextualise and accept their psychological pain. These challenges are used to allow people to realise the vitality of life.
The goal of ACT is to achieve psychological flexibility.
Some research has suggested that ACT is the same as other forms of therapy, specifically older Morita Therapy.
Janna is our in-house blog writer and therapy specialist. She is supporting The Therapy Platform users towards successful therapy experience.
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