Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Reviewed by our psychologist : Samantha Saxton
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that focuses on six different skills. It teaches you to take a more flexible approach when tackling the problems that you encounter in life. Are you interested to know how this type of therapy works? Read this article to learn more.
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What is acceptance and commitment therapy?
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. This treatment focuses on improving your resilience, teaching you better ways of coping with your problems.
It’s not always possible to avoid or resolve unpleasant events that you encounter in your daily life. You’ll often face setbacks and your only option is to learn how to handle them. You can’t control everything in life. This means that being able to let things go is an essential skill to learn. If you find this difficult, then you’ll often shift into avoidance mode: Spending hours watching Netflix and eating chocolate or worrying constantly and replaying worst-case scenarios in your head. It’s okay if that happens to you every now and then, but it’s better if you don’t automatically slip into these habits each time you encounter a setback.
The better approach is to pause and sit with your feelings when you’re faced with adversity. This stops you from immediately entering into fight or flight mode. Instead, you’re just allowing these feelings to be present. Your next step is to make a conscious decision to shift your focus towards the things that make your life rich and fulfilling, despite these negative feelings. You accept what’s happening and subsequently commit to the things that are important to you. That is what ACT is all about.
The goal of this treatment is to develop your resilience and psychological flexibility. As a result, you’ll learn how to tackle the inevitable challenges that life hurls your way.
When is ACT right for you?
ACT can help you if you’re looking to live more consciously and are willing to release your inhibitions – if you want to start focusing on the things that really matter to you. ACT can be used in a variety of different scenarios because the theory can be applied to any part of your life. Problems that ACT can help with include:
- Chronic pain
- Age-related crises
- Work-related problems
ACT: method and treatment
No two ACT treatments are the same. There is no fixed treatment program that needs to be followed. Treatment is tailored to your particular needs. Your psychologist will ask you some questions to get a better idea of what’s holding you back and where you want to go in life. Which feelings, thoughts and behaviors are standing in your way? And what matters to you? Where are you hoping to go from here?
At the beginning of the treatment, your psychologist will explain a few things to you so that you can gain a better understanding of what’s going on in your head. During ACT, a psychologist might tell you, for example, that worrying about your thoughts and feelings and attempting to control them is mostly a fruitless task. You’d be better off focusing on the things that really matter to you.
ACT is not a talking therapy. This means that you won’t spend much time talking about past events, instead you’ll take part in practical exercises aimed at improving your mental resilience.
The six processes of ACT
ACT treatment is based on six principles. Together with a psychologist, you’ll work on these core processes so that you’re better able to deal with adversity. These six processes are also known as the ACT hexaflex:
- Acceptance: All feelings are allowed to exist, just as they are. Whether they’re good or painful. You’re open to everything.
- Defusion: Viewing your thoughts from a distance without getting completely wrapped up in them.
- Self as context: Consciously observing your thoughts and feelings and looking at them from a different perspective.
- Present moment: Being conscious of the present moment – the here and now. This is also where mindfulness comes in. You’ll learn to feel and experience things without attaching any judgement to them.
- Values: What really matters to you? You’ll examine what makes your life rich and meaningful.
- Committed action: Taking conscious and focused action towards goals that are rooted in your values.
Depending on what exactly it is that’s holding you back, your psychologist will choose to emphasize certain processes from the above list. Sometimes it helps to identify your values, other times you need to practice some acceptance exercises. It might also be the case that you’ll benefit more from jumping straight to defusion exercises.
At the end of your treatment, your psychologist will spend some time walking you through relapse prevention. You’ll learn to recognize when you’re slipping into old habits and what you can do to get back on track.
How can I find a good ACT therapist?
Do you have any questions about acceptance and commitment therapy? Or would you like to speak to a psychologist to see if acceptance and commitment therapy might be a good fit for you?
iPractice is here for you whenever and wherever you need support. Call or request an exploratory consultation online. This way you can make sure that you’re comfortable and that everything feels right. Your psychologist will help you to select a suitable specialist treatment.