Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: What is it and How Does It Work

acceptance-commitment-therapyAs our practice continues to grow, we wanted to share some of the frameworks and theories we work under. One of these frameworks is called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

According to the Association For Contextual Behavior Science, ACT:

“is a unique empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values.”

By combining mindfulness strategies and behavioral change exercises, ACT allows clients to make changes while in an increased state of awareness. This allows these changes a greater chance of sticking, because of the level of intention behind them. Also of note is that this method utilizes empirically based interventions, meaning, that their theories have been backed by science.

The Association For Contextual Behavior Science goes on to explain that:

“Through metaphor, paradox, and experiential exercises clients learn how to make healthy contact with thoughts, feelings, memories, and physical sensations that have been feared and avoided. Clients gain the skills to recontextualize and accept these private events, develop greater clarity about personal values, and commit to needed behavior change.”

In other words ACT helps clients to become empowered over their own thoughts and feelings by using a variety of interesting techniques.

One of the things that we love about ACT, is that it is very practical, and there are places on the internet, like this one, where consumers can go to try some of the mindfulness exercises that ACT practitioners may use.

We decided to try the “Thoughts On The Highway Exercise” by Julian McNally to see why in the world anyone would want to have more thoughts while driving. But, of course, that wasn’t what the title meant at all! In fact, this technique turned out to be a wonderful ten minutes of relaxing and mindfulness, aimed at placing unwanted thoughts and feelings on imaginary vehicles and watching them drive away. The underlying idea behind this method, besides, of course, freedom from unwanted thoughts and feelings, is to recognize that you are more than your thoughts, and more than your feelings.

Sometimes, thoughts and feelings can be so powerful that we believe that we are them. For example, we might think something like, “I am stupid,” and then believe that to be the truth. Or, we might feel depressed, and then muse that depression is the essence of our being. Exercises like the “Thoughts On The Highway” one allow clients to make space between themselves and their thoughts, and contemplate on who they really are.

We believe that you are more than the thoughts that you have in your head. If you would like to learn more about who resides at your core, or more about ACT, or the other types of therapy that we do, contact us. We are here to help!