Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Have you ever felt trapped in your own thoughts – desperately trying to push them away, but they keep coming back with a vengeance? The more you try to avoid them the more they swarm all over you, enveloping you in a nightmare of anxiety as you attempt to escape.
Instead of distancing yourself from disturbing events and thoughts , you can now learn to accept them. This is the basic premise of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), started in the early 1980s by Stephen C Hayes as a way of increasing psychological flexibility through several strategies that incorporate mindfulness and acceptance.
We are Prisoners of our own Minds
For many years, it was assumed that the ‘normal’ human mind would make sense of any mental discomfort. Unfortunately, we are now aware that when people are subjected to intense experiences the mind doesn’t always let go and thoughts can become destructive, leading to a great deal of suffering. ACT teaches mindfulness skills as a way of accepting and defusing these symptoms.
By rigidly trying to suppress certain upsetting events, people can develop mental disorders, which can also manifest in physical discomfort and pain. ACT offers an alternative to living within a prison of difficult memories by teaching us how to examine our problems rather than avoid them. Instead of wasting our energy trying to push our thoughts away, we can allow the thoughts to surface, examine them, and then let them lose power naturally.
ACT is a Process Approach
Mindfulness skills are broken down into three processes:
• Defusing by acknowledging and then letting go of unhelpful memories, beliefs, and thought patterns.
• Accepting that hurtful memories, sensations, and feelings may come into the mind, but these should not be consciously repressed; instead, allow them to surface and then let go without struggle.
• Remaining grounded in the present by committing to the moment with openness and acceptance, enabling contact with what is presently happening, rather than being captive to memories and past experiences.
The Benefits of ACT
ACT has been linked to relieving various disorders, including:
• Chronic Pain
• Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Of the above, there is particularly strong evidence for chronic pain, while the others have modest research support.
ACT in Practice
Using ACT to treat fibromyalgia has been shown to be successful for several clinical outcomes, with outcomes being superior to those in the people receiving pharmacological (pregabalin and duloxetine) treatment. More importantly, improvements after ACT were maintained after a period of six months.
Source: Heather Gilmore