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Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a behavioral therapy that has been proven to work with a wide range of clients who present with emotional and behavioral difficulties. People who could benefit from ACT are those whose internal self-talk obstructs their actions and behaviors. While the goal of ACT is not symptom reduction, it is the result. Instead of eliminating the self-talk to achieve different behavior, ACT helps clients address the self-talk.

 

By addressing potentially destructive self-talk, clients can help feel relieved of an emotion that they may be seeing as a roadblock to certain behaviors or actions. Instead of fighting emotions, clients can recognize them, see how they’re affecting their lives and can then be left with a freeing sense. Ultimately, the goal is to create a rich and meaningful life while helping clients accept the pain that inevitably occurs while living from day to day, and to help clients move beyond those events or feelings.

Accepting the ups and downs without avoiding the potential consequences will aid in living a healthy, happy and full life. ACT focuses on six core processes:

1. Cognitive defusion: learning to step back and separate or detach from thoughts, images and memories.
2. Acceptance: recognizing and opening up to make room for painful feelings, sensations, urges and emotions.
3. Contacting the present moment: being psychologically present instead of allowing your thoughts and memories to linger in the past.
4. Self as context: being purely aware of one’s self and being able to separate one’s self from the content of an experience.
5. Values: choosing life directions and doing what matters instead of feeling prohibited because of correlating emotions or painful memories.
6. Committed action: taking effective action guided by our values.

 

As an empirically based psychological intervention developed in the ‘80s, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy goes against the grain of Western psychology. Instead of assuming that humans are mentally healthy by nature, ACT assumes that the human mind is often self-destructive and carries an innate unhealthiness. The core behaviors that warrant the help of ACT can be remembered by using the acronym FEAR.

FEAR

Fusion with your thoughts: thoughts become certain fact in one’s mind
Evaluation of experience: looking at the content of an experience over the context of it
Avoidance of your experience: experiences that had negative emotions correlated with it are avoided
Reason-giving for your behavior: giving alternate reasons for behavior instead of accepting emotional or verbal cues

 

According to Steven Hayes from the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, ACT has shown prominent signs of success in early tests with a variety of problems. Chronic pain, addiction, smoking cessation, anxiety and depression, stress, diabetes, weight control, epilepsy, eating disorders and several other problems were found controllable through the use of ACT.

 

“ACT assumes that even in the midst of tremendous pain and suffering, there is a meaning, purpose and vitality. Clients are not broken, just stuck.” – Russ Harris, MD, author of ACT Made Simple

Relational Frame Theory (RFT)

Relational Frame Theory (RFT), what ACT explores further, looks at the interaction between language and learning. We aim to uncover how these aspects can interact to form the lenses through which we see the world. In living our lives, we learn about the world around us by observing patterns and naming them. Relational framing is the process underlying language and explains why if we hear the words “ice cream,” we may become excited despite no ice cream being in front of us or even about to be given to us. However, this could work in negative frames as well.

 

The RFT process further informs our lenses. While language doesn’t necessarily always trigger certain thoughts or behaviors, Relational Frame Theory tries to uncover if any correlations exist. Maybe if you hear the words “ice cream,” you feel nothing at all because a behavior or action was never correlated with those words.

 

By investigating what stimulates certain behaviors or reactions, we can help our clients learn to change previously established links. RFT helps to identify and build awareness of these lenses and connections, and how they may contribute to repeated thinking and potentially unhelpful behavior patterns.

 

If you’re searching for the next strategy to help you cope with any issue you may be facing, Choices Psychotherapy offers the foundation for change and can give you the power to defeat your problems.