Simplified ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)

acceptance-commitment

— By Punam Khokhar

Human life is full of ups and downs.

The emotional break downs we experience time and again shatters many of us mentally and psychologically. Availability of appropriate support systems helps us cope up with the difficulties we face in our life with ease.

Those who are deprived of proper support systems suffer due to emotional and psychological insecurities. During such situations, they need help and guidance, the guidance of a trained therapist can retrieve them out of their distressing past and allow them to live a balanced and peaceful life.

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is one such therapy which helps people to enjoy their life fully. Here, we have tried to simplify the therapy, to help you understand it. Let us have a look at this value adding psychotherapy which helps people come out of their distress and lead a meaningful life.

Key Facts About ACT

The therapy we refer to here is ACT which means Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a form of Psychotherapy.
  • It is absolutely modern and has a strong scientific backing.
  • This aspect of Psychology is based more on human behavior i.e dependent on thought processes.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is all about instilling mindfulness in people who are bogged down psychologically due to pessimistic thoughts.
  • This Therapy works on the behavioral traits of people to make them realize their true potential to its fullest extent.
  • It stresses one’s physical body in order to de-stress their mind that is dejected due to life events experienced in the past.
  • It even teaches people suffering from chronic medical conditions to live a life that is value based and stress free.

Mindfulness

What is mindfulness? Let us understand what mindfulness is from a therapeutic angle.

  • Mindfulness, from a therapeutic angle is being mindful (aware) of oneself.
  • Being mindful of oneself includes both at physical as well as the mental level.
  • Being mindful of one’s physical self relates with the physical body.
  • Being mindful of one’s thoughts relates with the mental aspects of humans.
  • There is the third ‘self’ which can be termed as the ‘observing self’. This has the potential to observe both the mental and physical aspects of oneself in a focused and undistracted manner.
  • Observing can also be termed as awareness when it is related to the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
  • Awareness in its purest form makes it possible for people to observe one’s feelings (felt through the five senses).
  • Awareness paves way to decipher the thoughts that pass through one’s mind easily.

Now that we have clearly understood the real meaning of mindfulness from a therapeutic angle, let us have a detailed look at the three focus areas of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Parts of ACT

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is based on three main areas that harp around inculcating the habit of being mindful to the present.

  1. Focus area 1 – Defuse or make the past obsolete
  2. Focus area 2 – Accept the present reality
  3. Focus area 3 – Live the present moment with complete awareness

Let us look at each of the above focus areas in detail to get more clarity on the same.

  1. Resolving or Defusing The Past
    It is in this stage of the Therapy that the person being haunted by the past event(s) is taught to let go off the non-productive thoughts completely. By making the required modifications to their belief and memory systems, the therapist slowly distances them away from their painful past.
  2. Acceptance of The Reality
    During this stage of the therapy, the therapist teaches the concerned to allow the pessimistic sensations and feelings to pass through the mind without resisting the same. This acceptance helps in overcoming the grief/past and looking at it as an observer to move ahead in life.
  3. Living The Present Moment With Complete Awareness
    This is the final stage when the therapist teaches the person to live the present. Be aware of the surroundings and focus on the actions, thoughts etc occurring at the present time. People learn to be more curious and open to the present in which they live in. They embrace their current life accepting the past, without any negative feeling about their past disturbing them in any way.

Duration of ACT

We get affected by various kinds of psychological issues that can be classified under Anxiety Disorders, Somatic Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Mood Disorders, Suicidal tendencies, Schizophrenia, Phobias and Personality Disorders. Each type of psychological issue is treated by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in varying duration of time. Also, the duration depends on the receptivity of the person undergoing the therapy.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that lasts for half an hour or so is generally referred to as Ultra Brief Therapy. Ultra Brief Therapy treats psychological aberrations that are very minor in nature.
  • Psychological conditions like schizophrenia that are more chronic in nature get treated through Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in four hours of time. The therapist may decide to split these four hours into one or two hour sessions depending on the requirement. Such sessions are termed as Brief Therapy owing to the nature of the same.
  • Some psychological issues require extended therapy period which may be around eight hours and more. These may be characterized with chronic pain and is referred to as Medium Term Therapy.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that drag on for more than 80 hours are usually referred to as Long Term Therapy. Long term therapy is generally given to people who suffer from severe personality disorders.

Final Words

To summarize, ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – treats people suffering from psychological disorders in six simple steps.

  1. Psychologically being present in the current moment
  2. Detaching oneself consciously from the distressing past
  3. Accepting the entry and exit of pains and struggles without getting held back
  4. Observing oneself in entirety by practicing mindfulness consciously
  5. Standing by the values one wants to live by
  6. Remaining committed to act on the values one wants to stick to

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy teaches people to be psychologically flexible. It helps people to succeed against the inner battle that is based out of their past experiences. At the end of the Therapy, people learn to overcome their inherent fears and exhibit high levels of commitment towards change.

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Author Bio: Punam Khokhar is a life skills trainer, whose programs are based on psychological models and mindfulness. Find her on LinkedIn. Follow her on Twitter.


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