More About Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a newer or “third wave” therapy helping people make meaningful changes to their life even in the presence of unwanted emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations. Numerous scientific studies have evaluated ACT and is an evidence-based treatment for a range of difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and stress.
ACT improves mental health by increasing “psychological flexibility”. Psychological flexibility involves the ability to:
- Recognise and manage inner experiences that are detrimental to wellbeing and daily functioning
- Incorporate behaviours that are more in line with one’s values
With increased psychological flexibility, less energy is spent on things not within our control and more on practical actions that contribute to wellbeing.
What does ACT Look Like?
The first couple of sessions is about working with your psychologist to express yourself in a comfortable and understanding space to collect your thoughts about your experience. Your psychologist will listen to better understand your situation and how you cope with the difficulties.
After your psychologist establishes an understanding, the goal is to help you unhook from troubling emotions, thoughts, and sensations. This is done through mindfulness techniques that help you open up to the present moment while making room for those troubling emotions, thoughts, and sensations. Making room for these uncomfortable inner experiences rather than exerting energy avoiding them can make it easier to keep moving towards your valued goals. This regulates the internal struggle and allows you to view your human experience with more openness, curiosity and kindness.
Your psychologist will also help you clarify your goals and what you value. This process sheds light on the barriers that interfere with your values. The clarity obtained will reduce the tendency to dwell on negative experiences and pursue demoralizing patterns of action, such as impulsivity or escapism.
Psychologists often assign exercises to be applied outside of sessions so that you can solidify the skills taught within ACT and make them second nature.
Going through ACT increases the likelihood of focusing on parts of your life that gives purpose and meaning rather than the unwanted aspects of life.
Six Core Processes of ACT
The six core processes ACT works on are:
Acceptance is about making room for difficult emotions and thoughts to reduce the draining struggle of trying to change, push away, or ignore them in an unhealthy way.
Cognitive defusion is our ability to process thoughts without judgement or acting on them. This takes away the brute intensity we can experience unwanted thoughts.
- Being Present
Being present helps us shift our attention back to what is happening around us, rather than being caught up in the past or concerns about the future.
Self-as-context is about being aware of our inner experiences with an objective viewpoint so the flow of emotions and thoughts can be managed with more effectiveness. This brings about a better understanding of our minds.
Values are things we see as important enough to care about even during tough times. Clarifying what is truly important directs our actions toward a fuller, more meaningful life.
Commitment means acting more consistently with your values, despite difficult inner experiences or fears.
What can ACT help with?
Over 200 studies have shown ACT to be effective for various mental health issues, including:
- Obsession-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Substance Use
- Chronic Pain
- Eating or Feeding issues
ACT can also be paired with other therapies that address specific mental health issues.
Since ACT has a broader approach than conventional therapies, like CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), it can also address several mental health concerns at once.
Benefits of ACT
- Improved mental wellbeing
- Increased mental resilience
- Enriched life, regardless of difficulties experienced
Unfortunately, life is not an uninterrupted succession of experiences and emotions we desire. Unwanted experiences and emotions are always felt like rude interruptions, and it can become overwhelming. Despite these challenges, life can still be lived with some form of fulfilment and meaning. This is the tenet that ACT embodies and promotes.
Biinu provides experienced Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Sydney, to help people reinvigorate their human experience.
If you have any questions, please send them through via our Contact Us form or call us directly on (02) 7252 2860.