Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance commitment therapy, also commonly known as ACT, aims to address a range of mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, chronic pain, stress, trauma, and more through mindful psychotherapy. This approach can be applied to individual or group-style therapy.
ACT aims to transform how individuals see themselves, particularly those who face challenges in regulating their emotions. This therapy style educates residents on combatting difficult emotions and directing that energy into healing.
How Does ACT Work?
During a session of acceptance and commitment therapy, the resident can expect to recognize their emotions, even the negative ones, head-on with a mental health professional. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors. Often, negative thoughts of ourselves come with guilt and shame. In this approach, the patient will learn to recognize those feelings and learn tools to overcome them with psychological exercises or mindfulness training.
ACT therapists fully support the theory that increasing acceptance can lead to increased psychological flexibility, improving the resident’s ability to accept and function with symptoms like anxiety or depression. Consequently, symptoms may lessen significantly with an increase in psychological flexibility.
ACT doesn’t serve as a means to eliminate those negative emotions; its purpose is to offer education and provide mindfulness skills that foster greater acceptance of your thoughts and feelings. That is where commitment becomes essential, as the resident must dedicate themselves to this behavioral therapy and retrain their mind and their emotions. Its unique goal is to help patients foster a rich and purposeful life while practicing mindfulness skills when faced with pain and suffering.
Six Core Processes of ACT
There are six core processes found in ACT known as:
- Acceptance: Choose to allow negative emotions without denying or changing them.
- Cognitive defusion: Observe your thoughts and become aware of them.
- Being present: Become aware of body and breathe.
- Self as context: Understand that an individual is not simply their thoughts or emotions.
- Values: Identify what is important to you.
- Committed action: Commit to actions that will assist in long-term goals while upholding identified values.
Is ACT Right For Me?
ACT could be a suitable choice if you want to enhance your emotional well-being and acquire mindfulness techniques. There are many benefits to ACT, but the biggest takeaway is learning to be more present in your everyday life. Rather than avoiding negative thoughts and experiences, view them as opportunities for learning.
ACT can be practiced in face-to-face sessions, group settings, or via telehealth. It’s all up to the resident and where they are most comfortable opening up. Embrace inner struggles and acknowledge them as integral to your journey.