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Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
in a Nutshell

ACT can help you accept challenging emotions and then, successfully navigate through your suffering rather than focusing on changing your thoughts or feelings.

At Nina Lauren Psychotherapy, the way our team’s integrative therapeutic approach weaves Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with your personal therapy program could positively impact your relationships and overall ability to cope with and successfully navigate whatever life throws at you.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy fosters psychological flexibility and overall mental health.
  • ACT encourages six core principles that help people confront their suffering and live more fulfilling lives based on values.
  • Real-life examples of successful ACT stories show it is an effective treatment for various mental health issues leading to healthier coping strategies and greater well-being.

ACT Helps You Make Peace With Difficult Experiences

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a therapeutic approach encouraging individuals to accept and navigate through their suffering — including chronic pain. The aim of ACT is to increase a person’s psychological flexibility by motivating them to stay in the present moment and accept all their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This present-moment focus can be particularly helpful for those with anxiety disorders. Unlike Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), ACT emphasizes accepting and navigating through suffering, rather than trying to reduce or replace it.

Research has demonstrated that ACT therapy can be an effective treatment for a variety of mental health conditions and life challenges, including those related to physical sensations. It encourages you to zoom out and evaluate your life as objectively as possible. The ACT therapy process involves working with your therapist to identify and understand your personal values — and to take action in order to live in accordance with those values.

The Six Core Principles of ACT

ACT therapy focuses on six core principles. These principles improve one’s psychological flexibility and overall mental health. These principles are:

Principle 1: Acceptance

Acceptance in ACT means: recognizing and embracing your thoughts, emotions, or situations without trying to manage or alter them. By adopting an attitude of acceptance, individuals can effectively address worrying, rumination, depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame. In ACT, suffering is defined not as having the pain of negative emotion or aversive thought, but rather as resisting or rejecting those experiences or the pain. By learning to accept these experiences, individuals can reduce their suffering and develop healthier ways of coping with life’s challenges.

Acceptance is a crucial component of the ACT process and lays the foundation for the other core principles. By embracing our thoughts and emotions without judgment, we become better equipped to navigate our lives with resilience and flexibility.

Principle 2: Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion is a technique in ACT involving: detaching from our thoughts and emotions, and then viewing them objectively, rather than taking them at face value. This process allows for the separation of negative thoughts from behaviors, which decreases their influence. Cognitive defusion derives from mindfulness practices designed to detach from the content of the mind, helping individuals develop a more objective perspective on their internal experiences.

By practicing cognitive defusion, people can better manage their negative thoughts and emotions without letting those emotions in the driver’s seat and dictating their actions. This newfound objectivity can lead to more adaptive and value-driven behaviors, which impacts one’s overall well-being.

Principle 3: Being Present

Being present in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy involves: being fully conscious and engaged with our experience, even if it is difficult. It requires an attitude of non-judgmental awareness of psychological and environmental events as they occur. It also requires being in the here and now — fully conscious of our experience — instead of being lost in our thoughts. By cultivating this present-focused mindset through mindfulness skills training, individuals can better appreciate the richness of their daily life and make more intentional decisions based on their values. Commitment therapy acceptance plays a crucial role in this process, as it helps individuals embrace their experiences and work towards personal growth.

Living in the present moment is an essential aspect of ACT, as it enables individuals to respond effectively to life’s challenges and engage more fully in their experiences. Being present fosters a sense of connection and groundedness, promoting psychological flexibility and resilience.

Principle 4: Self as Context

Self as context in ACT involves: observing oneself from a safe and consistent perspective, without getting caught up in thoughts, emotions, or sensations. This core process facilitates the growth of an “observing self” by acknowledging and embracing thoughts and feelings as distinct from actions, enabling the individual to observe their thoughts and feelings without getting entangled in them.

By developing this “observing self,” individuals can create a sense of distance between their thoughts and feelings, allowing them to make decisions based on their values instead of their emotions. This perspective fosters a greater sense of self-awareness and emotional regulation, enhancing overall psychological flexibility.

Principle 5: Values

In ACT, personal values are the principles that: guide and motivate individuals throughout their lives. They represent activities that give our lives meaning and have the potential to bring joy and fulfillment. Values play a crucial role in the ACT therapy process, guiding decision-making and shaping one’s overall life journey.

Defining values is essential in ACT therapy. It enables individuals to make informed decisions and provides them with direction on their life journey. By clarifying one’s values, individuals can navigate life’s challenges with a greater sense of purpose and conviction.

Principle 6: Committed Action

Committed action in ACT is: taking action in the direction of one’s values and goals, even when there are obstacles present. This core principle is intended to foster psychological flexibility and empower individuals to actively engage in value-based activities — as well as make necessary behavior changes in order to reach their goals.

By practicing committed action, individuals can overcome life’s hurdles and make significant strides toward their greater lifestyle objectives. This proactive approach to personal growth and fulfillment is at the heart of ACT therapy — and helps promote a sense of empowerment and resilience in the face of adversity, workplace stress, etc.

Conditions Treated by ACT

The versatility of ACT therapy makes it an effective treatment option for various mental health challenges. The psychological conditions successfully treated using the ACT modality include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Trauma
  • Coping with medical illnesses
  • Lack of life direction or feelings of being lost

Due to its unique approach, ACT encourages individuals to view their distress and suffering in a different light. This rejuvenating perspective shift enables people to accept their struggles, as well as see their painful thoughts and difficult emotions — through the lens of understanding and self-compassion.

In this way, ACT can help individuals move forward in a positive manner while reducing their symptoms and developing healthier coping strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Nina’s Quick Reference Guide About ACT

What mental health issues can ACT help with?

ACT has been empirically supported as an effective treatment for a wide-range of mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, stress, psychosis, chronic pain, and OCD. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has also been used to treat additional conditions such as trauma & PTSD, substance abuse, certain personality disorders, and eating disorders.

Is ACT better than other methods?

At Nina Lauren Psychotherapy, we consider Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to be an incredibly effective forms of treatment, which is why it’s one of the many tools in our therapeutic toolbox. However, whether it’s better than other methods is dependent on your particular needs and preferences.

Our experienced integrative therapists understand the unique needs and bigger goals of each individual and customize treatment plans accordingly. With our collaborative and action-oriented approach, we take into consideration your personal values, unique worldview, cultural background, experiences, current life circumstances, etc. This ensures the therapy program we create for you is not only effective but respectful of your unique experiences.

How long does it typically take for ACT to be effective?

Within 12-16 sessions, ACT has been clinically shown to be effective form of treatment for depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, as well as improving overall quality of life. However, an effective length of time is dependent on factors such as severity of conditions, life circumstances, and consistency of receiving treatment.

At Nina Lauren Psychotherapy, our integrative therapy approach and focus on matching therapeutic modalities to your needs means we customize each treatment program. Because of this, your individual results and timeframes can vary.

Will Acceptance and Commitment Therapy be part of my treatment plan?

At Nina Lauren Psychotherapy, due to our integrative, creative approach as therapeutic care providers, matching our clients with the most effective therapy for them is what’s important. Because of this, we shape the treatment for you based on your own unique situation and needs. And because the treatment modalities will vary from person to person, whether or not ACT is best for you at any given point in your healing journey will ultimately be determined by your therapist based on your goals, progress, and specific issues you’re dealing with at the time.

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