What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
by 449 Staff

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people accept things out of their control and commit to taking action in line with their values. This approach can effectively treat a range of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and addiction.

6 Techniques Used in ACT

ACT is an intervention that seeks to reduce struggle by increasing one’s involvement in meaningful life activities while simultaneously eliminating unwanted experiences such as cognitive distortion or emotional responses.

Acceptance and commitment therapy uses six main techniques:

#1 Acceptance

Accepting our thoughts and feelings without trying to change them. This can help us manage our emotions and reactions to situations. Acceptance requires awareness of our thoughts and feelings at the moment as they occur. Mindfulness can help with acceptance as it increases awareness and neutrality.

#2 Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion means separating yourself from your thoughts and emotions. This empowers us to take control of situations, instead of allowing situations to control us.

#3 Self as Context

Self as context means creating awareness of a self as separate from our actions and behaviors. This prevents identifying with maladaptive coping strategies and relapse.

#4 Being Present

Being present involves being in the here and now. By being present in the moment, you can learn to accept what is happening in the moment and take action that is in line with your values. While this may sound simple, it can be challenging to do in practice.

# 5 Values

Values are those areas of our life that are important enough to us to motivate action. According to ACT, we should not try to suppress or eliminate our values. Instead, we should strive to live in accordance with them. When we are clear about our values, we can make better decisions, set healthier boundaries, and find more enjoyment in the present moment. 

#6 Commitment

Commitment in ACT refers to committing to change your behavior, regardless of how you feel in the moment. This may involve setting goals and taking steps toward them even when you don’t feel like it. 

What to Expect in ACT Sessions

ACT therapists use a variety of techniques to help their clients learn how to apply what they have learned to real-life situations. For example, the therapist might teach them how to apply radical acceptance to a situation or how to reframe the narrative to make it more empowering.

Sessions may include mindfulness exercises like meditation to help individuals create an awareness of how they are separate from their feelings and emotions. These sessions are non-threatening and the dynamic is a partnership aimed at restoring wellness.

The therapist will assign homework to be completed in between sessions to solidify what was learned. Journaling is used for reflection and processing. The therapist will guide the individual in practicing ACT skills. Sessions may also include the therapist highlighting instances in which the individual deviated from their values and may work to clarify what those are. 

Meditation may be a part of the homework. Mindfulness activities are usually assigned, and individuals document their experiences to share with the therapist at the next session.

ACT and Psychological Flexibility

Acceptance and commitment therapy is an approach that has been shown to foster psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility is the ability to accept and use your thoughts and feelings when they are helpful and to leave them alone when they are not. This gives individuals the space to choose how to respond to inner experiences. This prevents impulsive reactions, which often lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms like substance use. 

This practice also has the benefit of granting perspective. Many times, when individuals gain some perspective through separating from their thoughts and feelings, they are better prepared to face adverse circumstances. 

Acceptance and commitment therapy emphasizes acceptance and mindfulness. Acceptance leads to less anxiety because it allows for thoughts to come and go. Mindfulness increases individuals’ ability to be present in the moment, which leads to more rational and helpful decision-making.

By utilizing acceptance and mindfulness, two forms of psychological flexibility, individuals learn that they are in control of the way they respond to events, rather than feeling controlled by outside forces. This instills hope and a sense of personal efficacy, both crucial elements in any successful therapeutic intervention. 

Psychological flexibility increases the odds of therapeutic success and effective management of a variety of conditions, including addiction, anxiety, depression, stress, and PTSD. It is also associated with increased well-being and life satisfaction. Increasing your psychological flexibility may not only help you better cope with complex symptoms; it may also help you build a life filled with excitement and personal meaning.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people learn to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment while committing to taking action in line with their personal values. This approach has been shown to be effective in treating mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. The therapist uses different techniques to help the person learn acceptance and commitment, including mindfulness, cognitive defusion, and value clarification. These techniques can help the person become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, let go of negative thoughts and feelings, and focus on what is important to them. ACT can be an effective treatment for mental health and addiction because it helps people to learn how to cope with difficult emotions and situations in a healthy way. For more information on acceptance and commitment therapy, reach out to 449 Recovery at (949) 435-7449.



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