Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps you accept the difficulties that come with life. ACT has been around for a long time but seems to be gaining media attention lately. Categorically speaking, ACT is a form of mindfulness-based therapy, theorising that greater well-being can be attained by overcoming negative thoughts and feelings. Essentially, ACT looks at your character traits and behaviours to assist you in reducing avoidant coping styles. ACT also addresses your commitment to making changes, and what to do about it when you can't stick to your goals.
ACT does not have symptom reduction as a goal. In ACT, the aim is to transform our relationship with our difficult thoughts and feelings, so that we no longer perceive them as “symptoms.” Instead, we learn to perceive them as harmless, even if uncomfortable, transient psychological events. Paradoxically, it is through this process that ACT actually achieves symptom reduction—but as a by-product and not the goal.
Cognitive Defusion: learning to perceive thoughts, images, memories and other cognitions as what they are—nothing more than bits of language, words and pictures—as opposed to what they can appear to be—threatening events, rules that must be obeyed, objective truths and facts.
Some defusion strategies include:
1. Observe what you are feeling. What are the physical sensations?
2. Notice the way you are talking to yourself as these feelings are experienced.
3. What interpretations are you making about your experience? Are they based in reality?
4. Grab onto the strands of your negative self-talk and counter them with realistic ones.
5. Now re-evaluate your experience with your new-found outlook.
Making room for unpleasant feelings, sensations, urges, and other private experiences; allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or giving them undue attention.
Some acceptance strategies include:
1. Letting feelings or thoughts happen without the impulse to act on them.
2. Observe your weaknesses but take note of your strengths.
3. Give yourself permission to not be good at everything.
4. Acknowledge the difficulty in your life without escaping from it or avoiding it.
5. Realise that you can be in control of how you react, think and feel.
3) The Present Moment
Bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, interest, and receptiveness; focusing on, and engaging fully in whatever you are doing.
4)The Observing Self
Accessing a transcendent sense of self; a continuity of consciousness that is unchanging, ever-present, and impervious to harm. From this perspective, it is possible to experience directly that you are not your thoughts, feelings, memories, urges, sensations, images, roles, or physical body. These phenomena change constantly and are peripheral aspects of you, but they are not the essence of who you are.
Clarifying what is most important, deep in your heart; what sort of person you want to be; what is significant and meaningful to you; and what you want to stand for in this life.
Setting goals, guided by your values and taking effective action to achieve them.
Working with me, you will learn to listen to your own self-talk or the way you talk to yourself specifically about traumatic events, problematic relationships, physical limitations, or other issues. You can then decide if an issue requires immediate action and change or if it can—or must—be accepted for what it is while you learn to make behavioural changes that can affect the situation. You may look at what hasn’t worked for you in the past, so that the therapist can help you stop repeating thought patterns and behaviours that are causing you more problems in the long run. Once you have faced and accepted your current issues, you make a commitment to stop fighting your past and your emotions and, instead, start practising more confident and optimistic behaviour, based on your personal values and goals.
The theory behind ACT is that it is not only ineffective but often counterproductive, to try to control painful emotions or psychological experiences, because suppression of these feelings ultimately leads to more distress. ACT adopts the view that there are valid alternatives to trying to change the way you think, and these include mindful behaviour, attention to personal values, and commitment to action. By taking steps to change their behaviour while, at the same time, learning to accept their psychological experiences, clients can eventually change their attitude and emotional state. If I had to summarise ACT on a t-shirt, it would read:“Embrace your demon, and follow your heart.”