Acceptance Commitment Therapy
Acceptance Commitment Therapy also known as ACT is considered a psychological intervention that is empirically based. ACT utilizes acceptance and mindfulness strategies as well as commitment and behavior change concepts to assist clients in changing their minds from a rigid frame of reference to one that is more flexible. This means learning how to be in the present moment, developing an awareness of consciousness and based on our values making healthy choices instead of the habitual ones that result in having us feeling trapped experiencing pain and suffering.
Acceptance Commitment Therapy teaches clients to effectively handle difficult, painful thoughts and emotions. The core concepts of ACT are based on the psychological suffering of humans and how their communication links with their cognition.
The goal of ACT is to increase psychological flexibility in the following ways by accessing the present moment fully. This means learning how to be in contact with what is happening in the moment. For most people this is a very difficult task as most of us are distracted by our thoughts, emotions and experiences of everyday life without truly being aware of what is really going on. The distractions in our lives become a way of being that is very unconscious and automatic for most of us:
• Being in the present moment means looking with flexibility, being an observer of your experience which brings a greater awareness to what is going on in either our physical or psychological world or perhaps both at the same time.
• Acceptance means learning to not run from our feelings, and thoughts instead we learn how to drop the inner conflict/struggle with the dragon and breath through it. This process of learning how to let go of or breathe through our struggles allows us to create a space of non-resistance. So instead of becoming overwhelmed by our experience we learn to move through the experience more peacefully and effortlessly.
• ACT utilizes the term cognitive Fusion or diffusion which means learning to step back and observe self. Detach from our feelings and thoughts instead of giving them the power to push us around. A good analogy for this process is imagine that you are a video camera and you are going to project your life onto the screen and all you need to do is just watch the story or the thought float across the screen and not react to it. It is nothing more or less that a thought, image, feeling or situation. Instead of holding on tightly to these thoughts, images, feelings and situations you learn to let them gently go floating by.
• Self as context or pure awareness according to ACT means being aware that there are two elements of the mind, the thinking self and the observing self. Most of us are aware of the thinking part of the mind because we are always thinking, creating thoughts, beliefs, judgments, memories, plans, fantasies, etc. Most of us are unaware of the observing self that part of self that is always aware of what is going on in the moment and has always been present since our inception into this world.
• ACT focuses on values knowing what really matters to us and gives us purpose in life. This is a willingness to intimately look within our heart and soul and outline what really matters to us in life. This is a very important step in clarifying what is meaningful in life and choosing a direction to guide us on our journey.
• Last but not least ACT encourages the development of committed action. Guided by our values ACT encourages and supports us in taking persistent action on our choices and values. So in short we are learning to live by our values even if that means pleasure, pain or discomfort. Concrete goals that are value driven and achievable are part of the ACT process. ACT always involves the development of long, medium and short-term goals. ACT therapy is always linked to an in session process and outside homework.