Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Treatment Options - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) was developed by combining mindfulness with contextual behavioral science to help you learn to accept your thoughts, feelings, and the present moment without judgment. 

The overall purpose of ACT is to help you put your energy into healing instead of dwelling on the negative when dealing with difficult emotions. You learn coping mechanisms to help you handle challenging life experiences. 

ACT can be an excellent treatment method for depression, as it provides you with tools to address difficult emotions and situations you face. 

The ultimate goal is for you to learn how to act in a meaningful way that positively impacts your life, even if that includes facing complex thoughts and feelings. 

Basics of ACT

The fundamental core of ACT is based on accepting life experiences as they occur, without trying to always evaluate, analyze, or change them. 

The word acceptance has different meanings. In ACT therapy, acceptance is about acknowledging the way things are at this particular moment in time. You are acknowledging what is. 

That doesn’t mean that you have to agree with your circumstances, like them, think they are okay or hope that they will always be the way they are right now. It is about acknowledging what is happening in the present without judging it as being good or bad. 

By acknowledging what is happening at the moment without judgment, you can then objectively determine what course of action to take moving forward. This will help you move away from feeling paralyzed by frustration about certain situations or circumstances and focus more on pathways toward healing. 

Acceptance isn’t an admission of failure or defeat; it is the first step toward success. Once you accept what is happening to you, you then have the power to build an effective response to the situation. 

One way acceptance is developed by learning mindfulness exercises. The purpose of mindfulness exercises is to help you build a more compassionate relationship with your own difficult life experiences. 

The goal is to allow yourself to free your mind from obsessive negative thinking about past events so you can embrace the peace of mind which enables you to heal. 

This is achieved through acceptance and direction. First, you acknowledge what is happening and accept it. Then, you commit to thinking in a positive direction so you can move forward with your life and not continually dwell on the past. 

What Happens During ACT

During ACT, a therapist will help you learn how to pay attention to how you talk to yourself about challenges, traumatic events, relationship issues, physical limitations, and other challenges you face in life. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, can also be summarized as

  • Accept thoughts and feelings and be present
  • Choose a valued direction
  • Take action 

Your therapist will guide you as you decide if each problem you are facing requires immediate action to change the situation or if the problem is something you should accept for what it is. 

Your therapist will help you look at what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past. They will help you identify repeating patterns of past behavior so that negative patterns of behavior can be prevented in the future. . 

The goal is to stop fighting your past and engage in more confident and optimistic behavior that is centered around your values and goals. This is done by achieving psychological flexibility.

The Six Core Processes of ACT:

You will learn six core processes through ACT to help promote psychological flexibility. 

1. Acceptance

Acceptance is grounded in accepting your life circumstances, which doesn’t mean that your circumstances are okay; it just means that they are how they are in this moment. 

By accepting your circumstances, you can move away from feeling frustrated and paralyzed by what is happening and focus on moving forward and healing. Acceptance leads to action and changes in your life. 

2. Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion is about learning how to change the way you react to distressing thoughts and feelings. The goal of cognitive defusion is to reduce the harmful effect of distressing thoughts and feelings in your life by changing how you react to them. 

There are various techniques that help you to master cognitive defusion. You will learn how to observe a thought you have without judgment, acknowledge the thought, and label the response you have to that thought. You will learn to see how you react and then change your response to events.

3. Being Present

Being present is about being mindful of the present moment. It is about being aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment as you experience them. This allows you to fully understand the facts of the situation and respond appropriately. Being present about experiencing things as clearly as possible. 

4. Self as Context

Self as a context is the process of learning to observe your thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way. 

Observing first, instead of reacting first, can give you a new perspective on your feelings that allows you to act in the most fitting way for the present moment. With practice, this perspective can help you think differently about yourself so that you can allow yourself to grow.

Here is a good metaphor to help you understand the self as context: If you think of an obstacle in your life as a hurdle on a running track, a change of perspective might help you to see that you can walk around the hurdle instead of jumping over it.

5. Values

Within the context of psychological flexibility, this process is about choosing the values you want to live by and then striving to live by them. It’s about living your life based on your own values instead of living to meet other people’s expectations or living a fear-based life to avoid distressing situations.

6. Committed Actions

Committed actions are about learning to take concrete steps to make changes in your life that support your values and lead to positive outcomes. This includes learning to set goals and developing skills to meet those goals. 

The six core processes you learn in ACT will help you learn psychological flexibility. 

What to Expect During ACT Sessions

During ACT, each session and treatment will follow a familiar format:

  • Build rapport by connecting with your therapist and sharing the challenges and struggles you are facing. You will discuss your mental health and the strategies that have and haven’t helped you with your mental health in the past. 
  • Cultivate deeper awareness about negative thoughts you hesitate to discuss with others. You will work with your therapist to learn how to deal with these memories and make peace with memories you can’t change. 
  • Explore core values to identify what is important to you and learn how to use those values to drive your thoughts, decisions, and actions. 
  • Learn to take action on thought patterns that you want to change. You will learn what is within your control to change and what things you need to accept. 
  • Commit to implementing the principles and strategies you learn in ACT in your daily life. 

How Long ACT Lasts

Sessions of ACT usually occur weekly and last about an hour. Treatment generally lasts between eight to sixteen weeks. It can last longer, depending on your unique needs. 

What ACT Can Treat

At Options MD, we primarily use ACT techniques to treat severe depression. ACT can also be used to treat a range of mental health conditions and non-clinical issues for which people may seek counseling. 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Substance use disorders
  • Workplace stress 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Chronic pain
  • Phobias

Get the Help You Need for Depression with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Options MD can help you get the help you need for your treatment-resistant depression. ACT is just one of over 200 science-backed, cutting-edge treatment options that our psychiatry experts access. We will work closely with you to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your unique situation. 

We also started the largest community of people with severe and treatment-resistant depression. It is a safe, collaborative, and supportive place to learn about better medication options and leading-edge treatments. Join today to get access to qualified doctors and find friendship and support.

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