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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – Life on life’s terms

Psychologists use a variety of therapies in order to best relieve pain and suffering. There is a wealth of resources to help you navigate or investigate any particular therapy. Those who consider therapy can empower themselves and make an informed choice as to the appropriateness of a particular approach.

Today, we will discuss Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT. The ACT model, which originated with Steve Hayes in 1986, is a mindfulness-based behavioural therapy. The process aims to enhance psychological flexibility through acceptance, spirituality, and mindfulness.

Research has found evidence in support of ACT for the treatment of anxiety, addiction, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and psychosis. In addition, ACT has been used in the treatment of eating disorders, chronic pain, substance abuse, and diabetes.

Rather than a direct focus on symptom reduction, ACT aims to help individuals develop the skills necessary to cope better with the demands of daily life, and particular issues or events as appropriate. It gives us the tools to sit with the feeling of sadness, craving, or anxiety, and to accept temporary pain or negative emotion in the knowledge that it will pass. The therapy teaches us to focus, calm our mind and body, and remind us that we are not our memories.

This process helps people become aware that they are moving towards their values through committed action. Individuals learn to live and behave in ways consistent with their personal values. In so doing, they are encouraged to embrace their thoughts and feelings, rather than avoid, fight, repress, or feel guilty about them.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy acknowledges that living a good life is not about simply ‘feeling happy’ all the time. Life has its ups and downs and brings with it a wide range of emotions, good, bad, and in between. ACT helps us embrace the entirety of the human experience no matter how painful or uncomfortable. ACT is all about the acceptance of life on life’s terms.

ACT teaches us that it’s okay if our thoughts and feelings are painful or uncomfortable. This therapy encourages the individual to be in the ‘here and now’. ACT gradually promotes ease and wonder within, to create the desired space for people to embrace in a healthy way the challenges and complexities of life.

References:

Harris, R. (2008g). The happiness trap: How to stop struggling and start living. Boulder, Co: Trumpter T

Hayes, S. C. (2005). Get out of your mind and into your life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Oakland, CA: New Haringer Publication. Inc.