Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
What is acceptance and commitment therapy?
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) encourages clients to accept the difficulties and misfortunes of life. Clients learn coping techniques to not dwell on negative emotions by staying in the present. ACT combines many other forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness therapy, and others to help you to focus on moving away from any issues you’re facing and to move forward and move on.
Unlike cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), where the goal is to control your thoughts, ACT’s goat is to accept your thoughts and move through life with them in a way that does not hinder you or your ability to be content. Fighting them only makes you feel worse.
How does acceptance and commitment therapy work?
There are 3 principles of ACT:
- Accept what is out of your control.
- Choose a direction to move forward.
- Take action to move in that direction.
Quite simply, there are things in life that are completely out of your control, such as losing someone to illness or an accident, having to make a career change due to an economic downturn, a global pandemic, etc. By dwelling on these issues, you feel worse because you believe there is nothing that you could have done to prevent the difficulty or misfortune, and that there is nothing to be done to overcome these events. However, once you accept the unfortunate event, you stop fighting the unpleasant emotions you’re experiencing and by allowing yourself to feel what you’re feeling, you can then move towards healing.
By choosing a direction in which you want to move, you’re able to gain a feeling of control. You cannot change the difficult event that occurred but you can change how you are reacting to it and where you want to end up. It can be empowering to realize that you don’t have to feel happy in order to make progress. Small steps can lead to bigger successes.
Taking action means that you are making progress. You are not your thoughts but rather a courageous person who is committed to realizing their goal.
When is acceptance and commitment therapy used?
ACT can be used to help people who are experiencing a wide variety of events including:
- Alcohol dependence
- Adolescent and teen issues
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Cognitive disabilities
- Coping with physical health challenges
- Coping with mental health challenges
- Mental health disorders
- Drug or substance abuse
- Gender identity
- LGBTQ2S+ issues
- Grief and loss
- Postpartum depression
- Self esteem issues
This type of therapy may be used to treat other conditions and concerns in addition to those listed above. It may also be used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Your therapist will work with you to determine the best treatment method for your individual circumstances.
You should be aware that there is no treatment method that is successful for every person. What works for you, may not work for someone else.
What to expect from therapy
Put simply, you will get out of therapy what you put into it. It’s not a magic solution that will solve all your problems. It may involve you doing some real work and being completely honest with yourself and your therapist. Sometimes facing our truth is the hardest thing of all – but from that discomfort can come healing and growth.