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What does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy do?

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What does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy do?

Acceptance and commitment therapy help treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Nearly 21 million people suffer from depression in the United States alone. This number might be even more alarming considering these statistics are just from one country. Mental health disorders such as the Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder can cripple the best of us.

Depressive disorder and anxiety disorder often go hand in hand. They meddle with daily activities and impact the ability to make sound decisions. When suffering from depression, an individual does not want to engage in any activity that they once enjoyed doing.

Today, psychology has made tremendous growth in helping people with anxiety and depression. Various therapies can help people struggling with these mental health issues.

Acceptance and commitment therapy is one such tool that is used to help people with Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder.

In this blog, we will talk more about acceptance and commitment therapy and its process, benefits, effectiveness, techniques, and more. Read on to find out more about acceptance and commitment therapy.

What is acceptance and commitment therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that is useful for patients suffering from anxiety and depressive disorder. ACT focuses on mindfulness which helps the patients to develop the ability to enjoy the present moment and accept their negative thoughts.

Acceptance and commitment therapy help the patients manage their emotions effectively. People suffering from anxiety disorder can sometimes, dwell on their negative emotions a lot. The therapist encourages the patients to focus on the process of healing instead of overthinking their actions.

The therapist helps the patient with coping mechanisms that help them in situations where the patient might feel anxious or depressed. The coping mechanisms are not only helpful when the patient is trying to recover from their mental health disorders, but can help the patient throughout their life.

History of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT therapy are used to help patients to accept their responses in situations that are out of their control. In ACT therapy, the patients are taught that their natural responses to tricky situations are appropriate reactions.

The patients are taught to no longer deny, avoid, or be embarrassed about their inner feelings and emotions.

Earlier known as comprehensive distancing, ACT therapy was evolved by Steven C. Hayes, who was a psychologist. He developed this type of psychotherapy when he was dealing with anxiety disorder and panic attacks in the 1980s.

A professor at the University of Nevada, Steven C. Hayes promised himself that instead of running from his inner emotions and feelings, he would start accepting them. This gave birth to psychotherapy, which combined the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and behavior analysis.

How does acceptance and commitment therapy work?

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a result of the combination of cognitive therapy and behavior analysis. The primary idea behind ACT therapy is that controlling emotions and feelings does more harm than good. Instead, ACT focuses on accepting those emotions and learning from your experiences.

It is often observed that when you suppress your feelings, it ultimately makes you more anxious, uneasy, and hyper. Therefore, ACT therapy focuses on mindfulness. This will help the patient to observe their thoughts and change their negative thought process. It will also make the patient re-think their values and increase their commitment to act in a way that aligns with the goal of acceptance and commitment therapy.

Accepting your unpleasant experiences might be difficult for some people. Therefore, ACT therapy sessions are focused on 3 pillars: acceptance, direction, and action. Let us talk in detail about these pillars of ACT therapy:

Acceptance

The patient is encouraged to accept their negative feelings, emotions, and experiences. The patient is taught that these elements are not in control of the patient, therefore, it is best to be mindful and accepting towards them.

Direction

Once the patient has accepted their negative thoughts and experiences, the therapist must point them toward the direction of healing. The therapist motivates the patient to adopt a positive approach toward their mental and emotional healing. This ensures that the patients do not get panic attacks, anxiety, or depression when they are revisiting their past experiences or facing their emotional triggers.

Action

After the patients are positive about their experiences, they are encouraged to take conscious action to stay positive throughout their journey. The therapist urges them to stay motivated and positive irrespective of any external factors.

Structure of an ACT Therapy Session

Like any other psychotherapy session, ACT therapy sessions also stick to a certain structure. This structure is crucial for a successful acceptance and commitment therapy session. In other words, these are the core values of ACT therapy sessions.

Let us discuss the structure of a typical ACT therapy session in detail.

Building Rapport with the Patient

The initial sessions in ACT Therapy emphasize building a positive rapport between the therapist and the patient. The therapist makes sure that there is a positive rapport by encouraging the patient to talk about their struggles and past experiences.

The patient is assured that the therapy is a safe space to talk about their mental health. The patients find it easy to open up about their struggles and what triggers their anxiety and depression.

Increase Awareness

To bring a positive change, the therapist and the patient must talk freely about the patient’s struggles and emotions. With the help of the therapist, the patient can recognize the situations where they develop negative thoughts and emotions.

Once the patients develop awareness about their emotions, it is easier for them to accept such emotions. This acceptance helps them develop a positive approach towards healing and stay committed to their goals.  

Develop Core values

Every individual has a set of core values that they stick to. However, sometimes, the individual is not aware of their core values.

During acceptance and commitment therapy sessions, the patient is encouraged to explore their core values. This helps the patient understand what is important to them and make decisions accordingly.

Acceptance

In ACT therapy sessions, the patient is encouraged to accept their thoughts and feelings unconditionally. A good therapist will guide you away from avoiding, altering, or denying your thoughts. Acceptance is the key to healing and it makes sure that an individual makes mature decisions after accepting their thoughts.

Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive Defusion is the technique that teaches you to distance yourself from negative thoughts or feelings. It is not to be confused with acceptance. Cognitive defusion might sound contradictory but it allows you to rethink the way you react in a particular situation.

When cognitive defusion is practiced with acceptance, an individual may find it easier to change the way they react in stressful situations.

Actions

People who suffer from anxiety disorder or depressive disorder often have repetitive thoughts. During ACT therapy sessions, the therapist helps the patient understand their negative thought patterns. Once the patient recognizes the negative thought patterns, the therapist can help the patient make a positive change.

The idea behind the structure of action is to accept that some things in life are out of control. The patient is encouraged to accept this face and make peace with it. By accepting this, the patient can work towards changing things that are in their control.

Commitment

As we all know, healing is a continuous process. The therapist can help you heal but your commitment will make you stay on the path of healing. The final sessions of acceptance and commitment therapy focus on helping the patient incorporate the principles of ACT therapy after the sessions have ended.

This ensures that the patient maintains their commitment to their healing. This way, after successful ACT therapy, the patient will not relapse back into anxiety or depression.

What is the connection between mindfulness and ACT therapy?

Mindfulness acceptance and commitment therapy have a deep connection. One can say that mindfulness is the pillar of ACT therapy sessions.

ACT therapy focuses on accepting yourself without judgment and being aware of your thoughts and actions. This awareness is facilitated by mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice where individuals ground themselves and try to be present in the moment without dwelling too much on the past or worrying about the future.

The therapist encourages the patient to apply mindfulness techniques that help them to accept their negative thoughts and feelings without judgment.

The best part about practicing mindfulness is that an individual can practice it even while doing their daily chores. The therapist teaches mindfulness techniques to the patient like noticing their surroundings and paying attention to sounds in their surroundings.

What can acceptance and commitment therapy help with?

Acceptance and commitment therapy was developed by Prof. Steven C. Hayes when he was battling panic attacks in his life. Although ACT therapy was developed for mental health disorders like anxiety disorder and depression, it can help with other conditions that affect mental health such as:

  • Stress in personal life: Sometimes, friction in an individual’s interpersonal relationships causes undue stress that damages their mental health. ACT therapy can help the individual manage stress in their personal life.
  • Stress in professional life: Professional life can be quite stressful. It impacts the health of the individual and deteriorates the quality of their personal life as well. ACT therapy can help an individual strike a healthy work-life balance.
  • Phobias: Phobias are an irrational fear of something. More often than not, phobias are attached to a traumatizing event or a childhood memory. ACT therapy can an individual accept that event and help them get rid of their fears.
  • Substance abuse: People who resort to substance abuse often use substances as a coping mechanism for their triggers. ACT therapy can help individuals healthily address their triggers.
  • Alcoholism: Just like substance abuse, alcoholics also resort to alcohol as a coping mechanism for stressful situations in their lives. ACT therapy can help them accept their triggers and past experiences and work towards facing stress without consuming alcohol.

Benefits Of ACT Therapy

ACT therapy is quite helpful in curbing panic attacks that people with anxiety disorder and depression often face. It is also crucial in helping the patients accept their unpleasant feelings and experiences.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) has several benefits:

Improved Quality of Life

ACT therapy is widely used to improve the quality of life for people with mental health disorders. When individuals constantly fight their symptoms of depression and anxiety, and the feelings associated with it, their overall health is compromised.

ACT therapy helps patients take their first baby steps in improving their quality of life. It enriches their social interactions and improves their interpersonal relations by teaching them to accept certain aspects of their lives that are out of their control.

Increased Mental Strength

The pillars of ACT therapy like awareness, core values, commitment, and action help an individual to stay focussed on their path of healing. This increases the mental resilience of an individual and ensures that no situations in the future trigger mental health disorders in an individual.

Changed Perception

ACT therapy teaches an individual to let go of the things that they have no control over. A successful session of ACT therapy will ensure that the perception of an individual towards their negative experiences is changed. They become more accepting towards their emotions and negative experiences.

Techniques Of ACT Therapy

Practicing mindfulness

The therapist will teach you to be mindful of the present moment. It is often observed that anxiety is triggered either by dwelling too much in the past or by worrying about the future. In such cases, mindfulness is encouraged to regain control over emotions.

To enable mindfulness, the therapist may teach you certain techniques like backward counting, and practicing deep and slow breathing to bring your mind back to the present situation.

Keeping a balanced perspective

The primary objective of ACT therapy sessions is to empower the individual with the knowledge that they are different from their emotions. An individual’s persona is indestructible whereas their emotions are fleeting.

The patients are taught to accept their emotions without any judgment or embarrassment. Once an individual realises they it is normal to have such feelings, they can control their actions and choose not to act in a self-destructive manner.

Identifying values and goals

Identifying your core values is crucial for the mental well-being of an individual. Sticking to your core values ensures that you stay committed to your journey towards better mental health.

Moreover, having a purpose in life is a great way to stay committed to your overall goals. 

Commitment toward values and goals

Throughout the sessions of ACT therapy, the therapist ensures that you stay committed to your goals of healing yourself. This is done through various assessments. The therapist studies your progress regularly and adapts new techniques to help you combat your triggers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the use of acceptance and commitment therapy?

ACT therapy is beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorder and depression. It teaches the patients to enjoy the present moment without dwelling too much on the past or worrying about the future.

What are the basics of ACT therapy?

A successful ACT therapy session relies on the structure of building a rapport with the patient, increasing awareness, developing core values, and ensuring action and commitment.

Is ACT therapy effective?

Yes, ACT therapy is effective in helping patients who are struggling with anxiety and depression.

Who founded ACT therapy?

Professor Steven C. Hayes of the University of Nevada founded ACT therapy in the 1980s when he was struggling with panic attacks in his personal life.

Who is ACT therapy not useful for?

Although ACT therapy is useful for people who are suffering from anxiety and depression, it may not be useful for everyone. This form of therapy requires an individual to introspect and observe their thoughts and actions in detail. Therefore, it is not suitable for those who are not comfortable with analyzing their actions or thoughts.

Conclusion

Every individual on this planet strives to live an enriched and fulfilling life. However, there are certain circumstances wherein a person’s life becomes difficult. They feel that they are caught up in a downward spiral of overthinking, stress, and anxiety from dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. 

Acceptance and commitment therapy, developed by Prof. Steven C. Hayes, helps individuals accept their negative thoughts and emotions without judgment. This type of psychotherapy is a combination of cognitive therapy and behavior analysis. The therapist encourages the patient to accept their experiences and feelings and motivates them to move on and include positive changes in their lives.

Once the patients are empowered to be mindful of their thoughts and emotions, they can overcome their feelings of distress and negativity. This not only initiates the process of healing but also ensures that the patient stays committed to their healing lifelong and does not relapse back into depression or anxiety.

We, at Avisa Recovery, treat mental health and drug use disorders as delicately and complexly as possible, with the highest level of care and effectiveness. We utilize various techniques and therapies to get the right results for our clients. Helping individuals achieve long-term recovery and improved quality of life is our main objective. Our program integrates the most recent research and evidence-based practices into a dynamic, connected community of clinical and medical specialists. 

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