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If you tend to label uncomfortable emotions such as stress or anger as bad and avoid them at all costs, this article may interest you. We will explore what is behind acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a mindfulness-based form of cognitive behavioural therapy that has shown great promise in treating psychological disorders.
You will learn about the six core principles of ACT – mindfulness, cognitive defusion, acceptance, self-as-context, committed action, and values – and how they can help you let go of unhealthy coping mechanisms and lead a more meaningful life.
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy i.e., ACT?
Acceptance and commitment therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps people change their relationship to their thoughts and feelings, so they can live more freely and fully in the present. The aim of acceptance and commitment therapy is not to get rid of difficult thoughts and emotions, but to learn to accept them as part of life and move on from them.
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What Types of Problems Can Be Solved with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
There are a variety of different types of problems that can be effectively addressed with acceptance and commitment therapy. Examples include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, substance abuse/dependence, eating disorders, chronic pain, relationship issues, and job stress.
Everyone can have anxious feelings at least once during their life. For example, a student might dread exams, or an adult might struggle with anxiety post-divorce.
Acceptance and commitment therapy has been shown to be particularly helpful in treating anxiety disorders. One study found that over 70% of participants who received ACT treatment reported significant reductions in their symptoms of anxiety. Furthermore, many people who receive ACT treatment for anxiety report long-term improvements in their symptoms even after discontinuing therapy.
Depression is another problem that can be effectively treated with acceptance and commitment therapy. One study found that participants who received ACT treatment reported significant reductions in their symptoms of depression. Furthermore, those who received ACT treatment were less likely to experience a relapse of depressive symptoms than those who did not receive treatment.
Substance abuse/dependence is another issue that can be addressed with acceptance and commitment therapy. One study found that those who received ACT treatment were more likely to abstain from substance use than those who did not receive treatment. Furthermore, those who received acceptance and commitment therapy treatment were also more likely to report improved mental and physical health following treatment.
Acceptance commitment therapy has also been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain. One study found that 39% of participants who received ACT treatment reported a reduction in their pain levels. Furthermore, those who received acceptance and commitment therapy treatment were more likely to report improvements in their quality of life than those who did not.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Techniques: 6 Core Principles
The six core principles of acceptance and commitment therapy are:
- Accept your thoughts and feelings
- Choose a valued direction
- Take action
- Notice the present moment
- Engage in cognitive defusion
- Acknowledge that your identity extends beyond emotions
Accept your Thoughts and Feelings
It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that we are not perfect. Our thoughts and feelings are often in conflict with each other, and we can spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for having ‘negative’ thoughts or feeling down about ourselves. However, acceptance and commitment therapy reminds us that thoughts and feelings are simply information- they are not good or bad, they just are.
By accepting our thoughts and feelings, we are able to move on from them more easily. We can acknowledge them, but then let them go without getting bogged down in self-criticism. This allows us to focus on living in the present moment and taking action towards our goals.
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Cognitive defusion is a process of unlearning our negative thinking patterns and learning to observe our thoughts without getting wrapped up in them. When we are cognitively fused with our thoughts, we believe them to be true and real. We become trapped in cycles of negative thinking that keep us from living in the present moment.
This simple shift in perspective can profoundly impact our lives and free us from the grip of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Your acceptance and commitment therapist will use cognitive defusion techniques to help you step back from our thoughts and see them for what they really are: just fleeting mental events. With practice, we can learn to let go of the need to control our thoughts and instead focus on living our values. This leads to greater happiness, fulfillment, and peace of mind.
The third principle of acceptance and commitment therapy is committed action. This means taking action towards your valued goals, even in the face of difficult emotions or thoughts. It is important to remember that you are not trying to get rid of your emotions, but rather to make space for them so that they don’t control your actions.
One way to think about committed action is to imagine that you are on a ship in the middle of a storm. The waves are crashing over the sides and the wind is howling, but you know that the ship will eventually reach calmer waters. Your job is to keep the ship afloat and on course, even though it is being buffeted by the storm.
Similarly, when you are facing difficult emotions, you cannot control the storm, but you can control how you respond to it. You can choose to let the emotions control your actions, or you can commit to taking action despite them. Acceptance and commitment therapy encourages to do the latter.
Committed action does not mean that you never feel fear or other difficult emotions. It simply means that you have made a decision to move forward towards your goal, regardless of how you feel in the moment.
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Many people think that the key to happiness is to avoid discomfort and only seek out pleasurable experiences. However, this isn’t the case – in fact, research has shown that avoidance leads to greater distress in the long run.
The key to happiness is not avoidance, but rather acceptance and commitment. These two words form the foundation of ACT. Acceptance means being present in the moment, even if it’s unpleasant. It does not mean you have to like what is happening, but you must be willing to experience it. Once you are able to do this, you can then commit to taking actions that will improve your life in the long-term, even if they are difficult in the short-term.
So how can you start being more present and accepting? One way is to practice mindfulness meditation. sit quietly for a few minutes each day and focus on your breath. Another way is to practice self-hypnosis, a deeply empowering exercise that helps you cultivate mindfulness.
Identifying Values and Goals
When it comes to therapy, values and goals go hand-in-hand. Without values, it is hard to set goals, and without goals, it is hard to know what you want out of therapy. That is why one of the first steps in acceptance and commitment therapy is identifying values and setting goals.
Values are the things that are important to you in life. They guide your decisions and actions, and help you live a life that is meaningful to you. There are many different values that people can have, but some common ones include happiness, health, relationships, family, career, and personal growth. During your acceptance and commitment therapy session, your therapist will help you identify these values.
Acceptance and commitment therapy embraces the SMART framework (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound). Goals are the specific things you want to achieve in life. They should be based on your values – if something is important to you, then it should be a goal. Goals should also be realistic and achievable; otherwise, they can become discouraging. And finally, goals should be measurable so that you can track your progress.
Some people find it helpful to think of their life as a journey with different milestones along the way. Values would be like signposts pointing you in the right direction, while goals would be the specific steps you take to get there. The key is to keep moving forward even when things get tough – that is when progress really happens.
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Identity and Flexibility
You are not your feelings.
Your emotions are just one part of who you are, and they don’t always reflect reality. And just because you feel sad, doesn’t mean that something bad has happened.
Acceptance and commitment therapy reminds us that emotions are just information. They tell you what is going on inside your body and mind, but they do not necessarily reflect reality. And they certainly do not define who you are as a person.
So, the next time you find yourself feeling down, remember that you are not your emotions. You are so much more than that. Your identity is much more than your thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Mindfulness and ACT
Mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy are two of the most popular and effective therapies for treating anxiety and depression. Both therapies have been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.
Acceptance and commitment therapy is a mindfulness-based therapy that uses acceptance and commitment techniques to help people move forward in their lives. The goal of ACT is to help people become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in order to make more mindful choices about how they want to live their lives.
Mindfulness therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety and depression because it helps people to focus on the present moment and accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness therapy has also been shown to help people reduce rumination, worry, and negative thinking.
Both mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy are effective treatments for anxiety and depression. If you are struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression, consider seeking out a therapist who specializes in these therapies.
How Does a Therapist Use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
In Acceptance and commitment therapy, the therapist strives to create a safe and supportive environment in which the client can explore difficult emotions and experiences. The therapist uses techniques such as mindfulness and meditation to help the client become more aware of his or her thoughts and feelings. The therapist then helps the client to accept these thoughts and feelings, without judgment, and to commit to taking action that is in line with the client’s values.
Acceptance and commitment therapy has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, and chronic pain.
What is the Difference between Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and CBT?
Acceptance and commitment therapy has its roots in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but diverges from CBT in several important ways. One key difference is that acceptance and commitment therapy views painful thoughts and emotions as part of the human experience, rather than as something to be eliminated. Rather than trying to fight against these painful thoughts and emotions, acceptance and commitment therapy encourages patients to accept them, make room for them, and move on.
Acceptance and commitment therapy also differs from CBT in its focus on values-based living. Values are defined as those things that are important to you and give your life meaning. The goal of ACT is to help you identify your values and then take action in line with them. This might involve making changes in your lifestyle or the way you interact with others, but the aim is always to live a more meaningful life in accordance with your values.
If you are struggling to cope with painful thoughts and emotions, or if you feel like you are not living in accordance with your values, acceptance and commitment therapy may be able to help.
How to Prepare before an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Session
There are a few things you can do to prepare before an acceptance and commitment therapy session. First, it is helpful to have an idea of what you hope to achieve from therapy. What goals would you like to set for yourself? What areas of your life would you like to work on? It is also helpful to be aware of any barriers that might prevent you from achieving these goals. For example, if you are struggling with anxiety, you may want to learn some relaxation techniques or ways to manage your anxiety before beginning therapy.
Second, it is important to be open and honest with your therapist. They need to know about your current situation, how you are feeling, and what your goals are to help you effectively. Be prepared to share anything that may be difficult or upsetting; it is often through these tough conversations that the most progress is made. That is valid for any therapy, including acceptance and commitment therapy.
Finally, trust is key in any therapeutic relationship. It may take some time to build trust with your therapist, but it is essential for making progress in therapy. The unique approach involved in acceptance and commitment therapy, from identifying values to changing your viewpoint about your identity, requires a special partnership with your therapist.
Renewed Edge: Your Trusted Mental Health Care Provider
If you are ready to start living a more fulfilling life, contact Renewed Edge today. We offer individualized treatment plans that are tailored to your unique needs and goals. Our coverage spans evidence-based techniques ranging from acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, person-centred counselling to hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis.
We also offer a variety of resources – including articles, and blog posts – that can help you learn more about mental health and how it can help you achieve your goals.