Is there a way to accept who we really are and find a better way to deal with negative thoughts and emotions that impede our day and keep us stuck? According to mindfulness-based approaches, the answer is a resounding yes. And now, you can get help in finding these approaches through professional services, such as counseling and psychotherapy. One therapy, in particular, is called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, commonly referred to as ACT.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be defined as being in the present moment, and becoming aware and accepting of our thoughts, bodily sensations, feelings, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness can also be used as a therapeutic technique in learning to accept ourselves and where we are in our lives at the present moment.
These therapies encompass ancient Buddhist mindfulness meditations in addition to modern-day meditations.
What is Acceptance Therapy?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy which uses a mindfulness-based approach.
The therapy itself places emphasis on acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, values, present moment living, and discovering a true sense of self.
ACT has been used successfully with various clinical conditions, including:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Chronic pain
- Workplace stress
In essence, ACT places an emphasis on overcoming negative feelings and thoughts about ourselves, accepting where we are presently, and taking actions to become unstuck.
Focus Is on Personal Acceptance
There are situations beyond our control. We have personality traits that are hard to change, and overwhelming emotions at times. When we learn to accept these things instead of rail against them or worry excessively about them, we can move ahead in our lives instead of staying stuck. These may look like:
- Replaying the same though over and over in our minds
- Obsessing about something we did or some personality trait we don’t’ like
- Worrying constantly
- Focusing on overwhelming emotions
With ACT, you learn to accept your particular reality and focus on working with what you have.
Strategies that may be used in ACT include:
- Learning to let go of thoughts or feelings without acting on them
- Giving ourselves permission to not be good at each and everything
- Discerning what our weaknesses are while also acknowledging our strengths
- Grasping the concept that we can control how we think, feel, and react
- Acknowledging the difficulties in our lives and making no attempt to escape or avoid them
With ACT, you learn to change your self-talk, that internal conversation you have with yourself. In turn, you also adjust your external talk.
How does ACT differ from Other Therapies?
All therapies have some things in common, but with ACT, there are noticeable differences in approach. These include:
- Symptom reduction is not the focus. Once something is labeled a symptom, attempts are made to erase it, and all focus goes to that removal. With ACT, focus is not on symptoms but instead is on transforming how you relate to difficult thoughts and feelings. This way, you no longer consider them symptoms and learn to see them as transient and harmless.
- No Baseline for Normal Health. In most therapies, there are baselines for what is considered normal. ACT does not start with such a premise. Instead, it starts with where you are now.
- No Rigid Protocol. ACT therapists have more flexibility in how they approach each client.
How ACT Helps
With ACT, you learn ways to defuse thoughts, feelings, and experiences that are keeping you stuck. Realizing your feelings and thoughts for what they truly are instead of what you think they are is key to a successful outcome.
For example, thoughts we think are factual are re-framed, making them simply passing sensations or perhaps just irrational things we tell ourselves.
In the end, the goal is to help you manage these experiences, not completely avoid them altogether.
Where does Commitment come in?
The last stages of ACT focus on commitment. Your goal is to stop denying or fighting against your past history and any emotional states you find yourself in. Instead, commit to accepting yourself and all that comes with you, and find ways to positively move forward.
Through the mindfulness approach of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, we can learn to accept ourselves and, in turn, learn to work with what we have to become unstuck and move forward in life.